The University of Kent and the night sky

By James Neil

We have all looked up at the night sky, maybe even picked out a couple of constellations. The stars have always captured our imagination as humans, and as such this has led to many explorations of the story unfolding above us with perhaps the most famous being the Apollo Moon landings in 1969.

Within the School of Physical Sciences at the University of Kent, there are various projects that examine the night sky. They in part use our own telescope, the Beacon Observatory, putting us in a great position to explore this world above our heads.

One major project, led by Dr Dirk Froebrich, published a survey of the night sky in August last year. This survey was part of an ongoing joint effort between the astrophysicists working at the University of Kent’s Beacon Observatory, and approximately 60 amateur astronomers from 11 different countries as part of the HOYS-CAPS (Hunting Outbursting Young Stars with the Centre of Astrophysics and Planetary Science) citizen science project. This project aims to observe young stars from 20 nearby young clusters, to study the unusual variations between them, and learn about how they and their planetary systems had formed.

This is not the Universities only foray into space. One Master’s student, Alejandra Traspas, is currently working as part of a network of physicists to explore the results of an Israeli rocket named Beresheet that crashed on the moon in May of this year. Onboard were micro-animals known as tardigrades that can survive the oxygen-starved environment on the moon. What is unknown is if the tardigrades could survive the crash. Experiments involve flash freezing and firing the tardigrades at high velocities at various materials to see if they survive. By simulating the environments of the crash, we can gain an idea about whether they survived.

If all this talk of space has piqued your interest, then perhaps you might be interested in what you can see with your eyes now. The University has a space society that is very active and uses the telescopes, or the Facebook group for the Beacon observatory.

Image courtesy of The Beacon Observatory Facebook group

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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