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IYA2009 Press Release 0945

INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF ASTRONOMY 2009 PRESS INFORMATION NOTE:
Date: 30th June 2009
Ref: RAS PN 09/45

Issued by:

Dr Robert Massey
Press and Policy Officer
Royal Astronomical Society
Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 3307
Mob: +44 (0)794 124 8035
E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

ALL IMAGES FOR THIS ARTICLE, INCLUDING HIGH RESOLUTION IMAGES, CAN BE FOUND HERE.

A CELESTIAL MOUSE: SCOTTISH CHILDREN MAKE A NEW CONSTELLATION (RAS PN 09/45)

An imaginary mouse (temporarily) occupied part of the sky, as the winning entry for a competition to design a new constellation for the International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2009). The mouse or 'Wee Sleekit Beastie' (or 'Ode to a Mouse') was created by Laura, a year 7 pupil at Dalmeny Primary School in Edinburgh. She received the award from Liz Lochead, the Scottish Poet Laureate, in a ceremony in the planetarium at Glasgow Science Centre on 30th June.

In the Constellation Project for IYA 2009, 8 schools across the country were linked to an important astronomy site and selected a star whose distance in light years corresponded to the site's age. For example, children at Coupar Angus Primary School were linked to the Mills Observatory in Dundee, built in 1935. Their star, Aldebaran is 65 light years away, so the light left a little after the Observatory opened. Two schools in the Orkney islands, Sanday and Stronsay, were linked to the oldest site, Maes Howe, which was built around 5000 years ago. So the Orcadian pupils chose the Double Cluster in the constellation in Perseus, a group of stars so far away that the light left them when our ancestors constructed the famous monument in the Neolithic era.

The children at the 8 schools used the 8 selected stars as the framework for their constellations. More than 200 pupils sent in entries, including the 2nd prize 'Mermida' (Laura, Lauder Primary School) and equal 3rd prizes 'Lost in the Jungle' (Abdur, Glendale Primary School) and 'Seraurora, the Whisperer of Lights' (Ruby, Broadford Primary School).

The winners received their prizes in the planetarium at the Glasgow Science Centre on 30th June, where Professor John Brown, Astronomer Royal for Scotland, introduced the project and Liz Lochead recited her poem 'From a Mouse'. Starting with the giant mouse, the children then saw the winning entries projected onto the stars on the dome of the planetarium.

Professor Brown was delighted by the enthusiasm of the pupils. "Astronomy has the power to inspire children and get them excited about the Universe we live in. This competition let them express their imagination in science, art and poetry - my congratulations to everyone who took part."

Roger Meachem, Headteacher of Dalmeny Primary School commented "Staff are excited, children are delighted. And I'm over the Moon. It's great to see how science can be so popular with our pupils."

Laura, the Year 7 pupil at the same school added "Science is fun and extremely fascinating. There is so much to learn. Astronomy is my main interest now and I will stick with it for life I hope."


CONTACTS

Dr Gill Russell
Artist and Project Manager
E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Professor John Brown
Astronomer Royal for Scotland
Tel: +44 (0)141 330 5182
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FURTHER INFORMATION

Details of the Constellation project, including images of the winning designs, can be found at on the UK IYA2009 website at http://www.astronomy2009.co.uk

ALL IMAGES FOR THIS ARTICLE, INCLUDING HIGH RESOLUTION IMAGES, CAN BE FOUND HERE.


NOTES FOR EDITORS

LIGHT YEAR

A light year is the distance travelled by light over one year. Light normally has a speed of around 300000 km per second (186000 miles per second), so in one year it travels 9.5 million million km (almost 6 million million miles).

CONSTELLATION

In modern astronomy, a constellation is an area of sky covering a set field of view. By definition objects within its boundaries, set by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), are referred to as being within the constellation. Since 1930 the IAU has officially recognised 88 constellations.

The term usually also refers to the pattern created by putting stars together in an imaginary grouping - for example in Orion in the winter sky, which represents a hunter or Ursa Major, which contains the 'Plough' familiar to observers in the UK. In the Constellation project, the children designed a new (unofficial) constellation using the stars Menkar, Mirach, Bellatrix, Elnath, Aldebaran and Mu Cephei, the Double Cluster in Perseus and the supernova remnant the Crab Nebula in Taurus.

THE ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organizes scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. It has more than 3000 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.

THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF ASTRONOMY 2009 (IYA 2009)

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA 2009) will be a global celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and culture. It is intended to stimulate worldwide interest not only in astronomy, but in science in general, with a particular slant towards young people. IYA 2009 will mark the 400th anniversary of the monumental leap forward that followed Galileo Galilei's first use of the telescope for astronomical observations. In the UK the chair of IYA2009 is Professor Ian Robson, director of the UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh, and the co-ordinator for IYA 2009 activities is Steve Owens, also a UKATC employee. UK IYA 2009 activities are jointly funded by the Royal Astronomical Society (www.ras.org.uk), the Institute of Physics (www.iop.org) and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (www.stfc.ac.uk).

IYA 2009: UK home page
http://www.astronomy2009.co.uk