Star-B-Q 2011 Report
Saturday, August 27th
Roundwood, Co Wicklow
Hundreds of people descended on Roundwood, Co Wicklow, last Saturday, August 27th, to take part in Astronomy Ireland's Star-B-Q, the biggest and best star party in Ireland!
Proceedings began at 7pm when David Moore, Chairman of Astronomy Ireland, brought guests on a tour of the Universe, starting with our own planet Earth. Having explored the Solar System and the variety of planets within it, we then moved out to stars and nebulae in the Milky Way, and eventually moved on to the vast galaxies, or "cities of stars". To finish, David gave an overview of cosmology and how time and space began.
Our second speaker of the evening was David Grennan, who became something of a celebrity in recent years when he discovered a number of asteroids and exloding stars from his own observatory in Raheny, Co Dublin. David gave a talk on exploding stars, titled Hunting for Supernovae, where he explained to the Star-B-Q attendees how he set up his observatory and how he monitors distant galaxies for bright blasts of light emitted by stellar explosions.
The highlight of the night was our special guest speaker, Paul Abel, presenter of the BBC's The Sky at Night. Paul gave an extremely fascinating talk on those mysterious and elusive objects that are scattered throughout the Universe: black holes. It is thought that a supermassive black hole - weighing more than billions of Suns - resides at the centre of most, if not all, galaxies.
Paul explained that black holes are the remains of a massive dead star. When the star can no longer produce energy to support itself, it collapses on itself, crushing all its matter into an infinitesimal point called a singularity. This point is so heavy that its gravitational field bends space around it so much that light cannot escape from it.
A recent discovery by Professor Stephen Hawing was also summarised by Paul. It turns out that the term "black hole" is a bit of a misnomer. In reality, they aren't black; they are infra-red. Infra-red radiation is a form of heat, and Hawking discovered that black holes slowly emit heat back out into space!
Following the fascinating talks, a raffle was held and one lucky winner is now the proud owner of a Celestron Astromaster 130EQ!
Throughout the evening a series of children's activities took place for our younger astronomers, including exploring constellations and facepainting. Renowned astrophotographer Tom O'Donoghue exhibited some of his stunning images to the awe of many guests at the Star-B-Q. Colin Fitzsimons of the Irish Rocketry Society fascinated people with a number of high-power amateur rockets.
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