Student Astronomy Nights

Student Astronomy Nights

2014/15 Projects

 Student Astronomy Nights Image for use on Website devilstower pacholka 5 Jan 2015

The objective of this project is to make the NUI Galway campus observatory available to students, expand the interest of the student body in astronomy, and provide extra students with experience and training on the state of the art 3D visualisation suite and on-campus observatory.

There is currently no avenue for students to visit the NUI Galway campus observatory, with many students being unaware that the University even has an observatory. The existing astronomy open nights for NUI Galway staff and for the public have proved to be a massive success, with all evenings being booked out well in advance. This project aims to make the campus observatory available to students also. Student Astronomy Nights, to be held fortnightly by staff, postgraduates and undergraduate students, will consist of an ‘Introduction to Astronomy’ Talk and a 3D tour of the universe, followed by a trip to the Imbusch Observatory to learn about astronomical imaging, and gain hands-on experience taking images of beautiful astronomical objects like those often seen in popular science articles. The nights will be run by the existing student Astronomy Society, undergraduate students, postgraduate students and staff at the Centre for Astronomy. This project will expand the interest of the student body in astronomy, and provide extra students with experience and training on the state of the art 3D visualisation suite and on-campus observatory. The main aim of this project in year one is to train undergraduate students, so that in future years they can begin anchoring the Student Astronomy Nights themselves in association with the student Astronomy Society.

 The next Student Astronomy Nights at NUI Galway take place on Wednesday 4 and 18 March 2015. Please email to register.

Project Team & Links

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Lead student partner: Laura Boyle 
Lead staff partner: Dr Matt Redman

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Student partners:
Laura Boyle
Amy Joyce
Ruairi Munnelly
Seamus Duffy

Staff partners:
Dr Matt Redman
Dr Iain MacLaren

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Image of Jupiter and four of its many moons (Io, Callisto, Europa and Ganymede) taken at the first Student Astronomy Night on 4 February 2015.

Project Updates

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We’re currently preparing for our first of the Student Astronomy Nights to be held on Wednesday February 4th at 7pm, beginning in room 220 in the physics department (There will be signs for directions).

The nights will begin at 7pm with an “Introduction to Astronomy” for a general audience by Lisa Marie Browne of the Pulsar group in the Centre for Astronomy. We will then be bringing our guests to see the 3D tour of the universe (7.45pm) followed by a trip to the observatory (8.15 until approx 9pm) for a tour and weather permitting we will do some observations- if the weather is bad we will show the guests how we take images with the telescope and make them into the pretty pictures that are usually associated with astronomy, and show them some pictures that have been taken in the past at the observatory.

In preparation for this, some training is being provided on at the observatory to those of us hosting the nights, and also training provided to the undergraduate members on the 3d visualisation suite, so that they can host the nights in future.

A Facebook page has been created, which will be used to advertise the nights over the coming fortnight, along with the NUIG Physics Facebook and Twitter pages, NUIG Astronomy society’s mailing list, and the socs box.

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So far we have run 2 very successful, booked out, student astronomy nights! Our next ones are scheduled for March 4th and 18th, there are still a few places left for both, but people should get their names in the pot ASAP to avoid it booking out. We have been providing our guests with pizza on the nights – so far the pizza isn’t advertised, and I am reluctant to advertise it as I don’t want people to attend just to get free pizza – we want them to come for the astronomy!
There is a nearly-total solar eclipse on the morning of March 20th, so weather permitting it would be nice to advertise a special ‘Student Astronomy Nights’ day event to observe this, including looking at the sun with a solar filter and small telescope, which we will begin organising soon.


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We have finished up with the Student Astronomy Nights now, as the final night was not very well attended (I imagine this is due to end of semester being very busy for undergraduate students). We invited the few people who signed up for the March 18th night to join us (tomorrow) March 25th open night (these are usually solely for public and staff, not students). As we only had 3 people sign up for the student one, and I figured it would be wasteful of EXPLORE funds to go ahead with it with only 3 people attending.


However we finish up on a high! We organised an event for the near total solar eclipse last week (March 20th). This was a joint event with the Centre for Astronomy and Astronomy Society. It was extremely well attended with the University press office quoting that we had 500 people attend the event!
Prior to the event: I did a short radio interview with a small radio station “Ros FM”, the NUI Galway press office tweeted the event for us and contacted Galway Bay FM, RTE, the Irish Times, and it was shared via NUI Galway media outlets, along with Physics and Astronomy outlets.
I hired a camera man to film the event and make a timelapse video of the eclipse itself, which turned out beautifully. 


The event was covered by RTE news, and the Irish Times. This brought a huge amount of publicity for the University!


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Artice by
Chris Newell