Monday, 1 April 2013

Crowdsourcing a Galactic Orchids talk: What are your astronomy questions?

Why do stars live in galaxies, rather than being spread out evenly through the Universe? Where did the Big Bang actually happen? Doesn't the Moon pull on water and therefore affect us? These are just three questions I've been asked and have got round to answering on this blog (here, here and here, in the same order) - and now, inspired by Dean's Comic Relief crowdsourcing efforts, I'm inviting you all to send me astronomical questions out of which I might make a whole talk.

My most major astronomical activity these last few months has been Galactic Orchids, a series of talks to raise funds for the Orchid Project and Daughters of Eve, two charities fighting (in very different fashions) to end female genital mutilation. I have about seven talks now, but I'm running out of ideas for them, and would like to keep going in autumn 2013 - so I'd like your ideas, please! What puzzles or interests you about astronomy? What would you want to hear about?

Your question might have a short answer, such as: Why is a lunar eclipse red? Or it might be major, such as: What exactly have we done so far to explore Mars? So I hope to make an entire talk out of short questions, and I also hope to make a few talks out of longer ones. Feel free to suggest what you'd like an entire talk to be made of!

If you'd like to come, the next two will be Wednesday 10th April and Wednesday 8th May, both at 7pm at the Newington Green Unitarian Church in Stoke Newington. There'll be tea, coffee and biscuits available afterwards and a question and answer session - it's very informal. We began in October 2012 and have so far raised over £300.

You can ask questions or suggest topics by leaving a comment here, tweeting me or Galactic Orchids, or visiting our Facebook page.

Thank you very much!

NGC 5218 from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. At Galaxy Zoo we call it "the rose".


Ravi said...

Does the moon have seasons (from an earth point of view), or does it revolve exactly in the plane of our equator? Either way it must have an effect upon eclipses and tides, no?

Ravi said...

Another one (sorry): given Relativity and our knowledge of the Big Bang/no fixed reference points in the universe, in what context do we say 'the earth is moving around the sun at x speed' or 'the sun is moving around the milky way at y speed' and so on?

Surely, except for assumptive notions, we cannot know whether or not the universe's angular momentum totals zero, plus or minus?

Ravi said...

Here's one that's been puzzling me for a bit: I love atomic spectra (Bohr's quantum analysis of the hydrogen atom, the discovery of helium in the sun before its identification on the earth, and so on), but I would love to know how astronomers (and physicists) are able to make the leap from elemental spectral signatures to being able to tell us that comets contain hydrocarbons. How can you identifyl a molecule from a spectrogram?

Alice said...

Loving these questions, Ravi. Come on people, got any more?

I've also been asked what causes the Eridanus cold spot or "axis of evil", a cold area in the Cosmic Microwave Background. With the above questions I thought "hmmm well I have a vague idea about all these and I can find out a lot more", but with this one I haven't a clue. So this should be interesting!

Incidentally, Kate Land also nicknamed an area of sky where spiral galaxies seemed to be rotating with some sync "the axis of evil" - this was just before Galaxy Zoo. Dubya, you have a lot to answer to science for.