I felt particularly intrigued and honoured to be a participant at the Fifth Advanced Colloquium - Building the Scientific Mind 2013. Dr Jan Visser from the Learning Development Institute sent me a formal invitation to attend back in August 2012.
The Colloquium was to have a specific focus on questions regarding this year’s theme "Science and Technology in the Service of Beauty and Harmony". Dr Visser felt that my work was eminently relevant to those questions.
These colloquia bring together prominent minds from a wide variety of disciplines pertaining to the sciences, the arts and humanities. In previous years themes were Learning for sustainable futures ( South Africa 2011) and In Search of a Home in the Universe ( Egypt 2009) ) Learning in the perspective of complex and long term change ( Canada 2007) . The initial Building the Scientific Mind was in 2005 in the Netherlands during International year of Physics. Previous participants included Nobel laureates such as the physicists Leon Lederman and Carl Wieman, UNESCO’s former Director General and noted molecular bio chemist Federico Mayor.
During Building the Scientific Mind colloquia contributors are encouraged to think beyond the boundaries of their own specific disciplines. The overall goal of these meetings is to improve the conditions of learning, in both formal and informal settings.
Into this transdisciplinary arena on May 27th 2013, I brought Action Sun. I developed this workshop in order to bring the sun to Earth in real time using simple materials with collaboration from local children and the child within us all. The purpose is to teach people of all ages the features of the sun and to take time to appreciate its wonder.
The Colloquium began with very uplifting rocket launches carried out by Aldino Adra Baskoro, a local teacher. This got everyone in the mood for fun and set a playful atmosphere loose around the grounds of Bosscha Observatory.
A team of people helped carry the 12 foot X 12 foot black tarpaulin for Action Sun out to the grass in front of the magnificent dome. It had been donated by the local military; it was real tarpaulin, heavy and thick, a great canvas for the sun.
Everyone took part in building the suns photosphere, sunspots, chromosphere, and filaments. Children from local schools and orphanages, teachers, scientists, philosophers, anthropologists, economists, game builders, educationalists, representatives of UNESCO, UNAWE, astrophysicists, astronomers, theoreticians, rocket builders, mathematicians, and musicians.
Fellow educators from amongst the colloquium cohort were very quick to jump in with gusto to help distribute the paper, glue and other elements to construct what would eventually be a nine foot diameter solar disc.
As it was a cloudy day I took my sun building data from the Solar Dynamics Observatory “The Sun Now” page. Bosscha Observatory had a plasma screen set up inside the dome showing the page so participants could understand where the prominences, sunspots and filaments were during the hour that it took to bring the sun to Earth. They also had some beautiful h alpha telescopes ready for me in case the sun did actually shine on the proceedings.
Sally Roberts from California was the first to say “how can I help?” she became my super hero glue mixer and paper distributor. Vidula Mhaiskar from India took photos for me and also distributed the wonderful educational material supplied by NASA Goddard to support the workshop. With something like 100 people present it was great to have such enthusiastic assistance. Binta Moustapha from Nigeria and Sally Roberts also got busy making the giant filament that graced almost half of the suns disc on that day.
Lovely local children flung paper and paint with great joy and curiosity and soon the sun was glowing from the black canvas on Java soil. I noticed some of the little orphans got paint on their hands; it was a slow motion moment for me in a very action packed hour. They looked at their hands like they had never seen paint before, that image will stay in my mind forever.
It seemed the child in many delegates was very close to the surface and burst out in actions of jollity. I was surrounded by professionals from many disciplines delightfully flinging paper and glue with no inhibitions. Questions were also flying at me about filaments and other solar structures. There was learning and listening magically absorbed while all the time we worked toward finishing our sun in real time. This was easy learning, it was cross cultural and for some it was language less. My sun builders were from 5 to 75 in age, they were bolted together by passion and enjoyment.
When finally our sun was created, I invited everyone to sign their names to the canvas. A few drops of warm Java rain prompted the crowd to carry the sun back into the dome. It remained on display for the rest of the week under the seven ton Carl Zeiss telescope WOW!
During the colloquium a gentle breeze mingled with the call to prayer and often fanned the passion in the room with seamless ease. Inside the observatory pools of beauty were daily being squeezed and teased out of Economics, Philosophy, Trash Anthropology, Maths, Cosmology, Music, Emotions and Football.
Bosscha Observatory was built ninety years ago and has many similarities to Dunsink Observatory in Dublin. I felt very at home there and for the first time felt even more at home amongst this gathering than I had ever felt at conferences or festivals that were solely astronomical in content.
One of the major differences at this observatory compared to Dunsink was the size of the dome and the main telescope. Bosscha’s dome was twenty two meters in diameter, the telescope named “Zeiss” weighted in at seven tons and was eleven meters long. The dome at Dunsink is 9 feet in diameter and the telescope is 18 feet long. The day after Action Sun I had a personal introduction to “Zeiss” from Dhani Herdiwijaya. WOW!!
The floor was mechanised to lift up observers so that objects could be viewed at whatever elevation was required. Massive chains on each side of the floor pulled it up under power generated by ninety year old controls. Everything works perfectly and the observatory handles 60,000 members of the public in its outreach programme annually.
This awesome telescope is double refractor made by Carl Zeiss. The main telescope lenses are 60 cms in diameter. The telescope was specifically designed for double star observing and can observe stars that are much weaker, approximately 100000 times fainter than the stars that can be seen by the naked eye. Focal length is a whopping 1080 cms or 35 .4 feet, the dome of the building has a weight of fifty six tons and is made of two mm thick steel.
One of the joys of being six degrees below the equator for me was seeing Crux for the first time and also seeing Scorpius in its entirety also for the first time. This happened one night when just a small section of the sky was clear over the hotel. Java was still having its rainy season so there were no clear sky nights to observe from this iconic instrument.
You might enjoy my photographs Action Sun,the telescope and the Colloquium in the slide show below.
A short video showing Action Sun on display under the 7 ton Carl Zeiss Telescope at Bosscha Observatory West Java Indonesia
Baby Banana tree at Bosscha Observatory
Building the Scientific Mind 2013 Science and Technology in the Service of Harmony and Beauty
Bossacha Observatory, Lembang, West Java, Indonesia May 27th to June 1st 2013
A Learning Development Institute, UNESCO, Institute Teknologi Bandung , Bossacha Observatory Fundacion Culture de Paz and UNAWE event.
Moon over South China Sea – Blog 1
Altitude 41,037 ft , Speed 545 mph, Outside temperature – 71 degrees, 06:14 local time, one hour too touchdown in Singapore. Over my right shoulder framed in the super jumbo’s oval window I noticed the full moon setting over the South China Sea. This beautiful vision triggered an immediate reaction to record it in some way. I took data from the flight path graphics screen, searched desperately in my bag for a pencil but only found a biro for sketching. The crispy clear moon offered the illusion that it was suspended for a time on the wing of the plane. A double moon halo with a rich tangerine inner circle and a pale silver blue outer circle enriched the view even further. I became transfixed with the complexity of the observation before me. The moonlight made a strong glint on the wing. The light dissipated along the blue slate leading edge as we sliced through the freezing outside atmosphere. Diffraction spikes, then developed over the wing in the moonlight. I think they were made by the window; they looked like spokes of carefully assembled, tight lined gas spectra.
For a long while the moon seemed to stay on the wing. I decided that moon drawing from a moving aircraft was a luxury I would like to have more of. The light playing from moon to wing and window was visually powerful, a painting hatched there and then. I took notes of colour tone and positions of everything for a later work as hot towels were once again handed out by the elegant flight attendants on Singapore Airlines.
A bird strike at Heathrow left all my subsequent flight connections very tight. I had 12 minutes or so in Changi before my Bandung flight at Terminal 2. The Sky Train and a wobbly run to gate 32 F did my sore foot no good at all, however I was very pleased when I was onboard the Silk Air flight on the last leg of my 8,000 mile journey ( or so I thought ) to my hotel in Lembang, West Java.
Bossacha Observatory had sent a car, a two hour journey ensued, the distance was only 20 kilometres .For most of that journey my eyes were wide open and so was my mouth as I was shocked at much of what I saw. The extreme opulence of finely designed gated houses, side by side with extreme poverty was difficult to understand. The condition of the roads, the pavements, and infrastructure left me aghast It seemed there were no road rules or standards. Everywhere there were food stalls on wheels and most of them were over open drains beside piles of uncollected rubbish which added to the chaotic view. What seemed like 500 million motorcycles competed with flash cars, angkots (local taxis) and trucks held together with gaffer tape for every available piece of road. Entire families were on these motorcycles. Babies being fed on motorcycles, children asleep on motorcycles, everyone moving at speed in between the other vehicles with inches to spare. My only conclusion was that the government did not give a care for these people in any way shape or form.
I witnessed large dogs, domestic cats and rabbits for sale in cages on the side of the road outside very grandiose houses. Where have I come to? What was I thinking of? Were the thoughts in my head as my lovely driver tried to persuade me to go shopping for water before we reached my destination. After a rather dizzy U turn in this manic road system we were suddenly taking another route with involved a kind of toll road, well actually a toll lane to be more precise.
A pole as narrow as the car was lifted by a tiny old woman to bring us into a beautiful peaceful country road with banana trees, jungle and local houses all along the way. This was a very different world to the mayhem of Bandung.
The hotel was guarded and secured, very beautiful planting and facilities. I found great peace and clarity by its Koi pond and restful thinking in the sunrays.
God is Great
[said two times]
La ilaha illa Allah
There is no god except the One God
For the pre-dawn (fajr) prayer, the following phrase is inserted after the fifth part above, towards the end:
As-salatu Khayrun Minan-nawm
Prayer is better than sleep
(said two times)
This was my wake up call at 4 am each morning, it had me on my balcony alert and listening to the jungle sounds competing with chanting voices from somewhere in the pre dawn darkness. As the sun’s rays climbed over the valley, the view of Tankuban Perahu,a recently active volcano to my right and a stunning gorge below filled every light receiving cell in my eyes, with awesomeness. The steep terraces were flanked by exotic trees full of yellow and purple flowers. Very tiny jet black birds darted everywhere, too fast to see their shapes, butterflies of many colours fluttered in the greenery below my perch.
I had no problem with the Muadhan’s early call, it reminded me that I was a visitor to a unique place on the planet. This country needed my effort to accept and understand its culture. ( see my short video below to hear some of it, he called from 4am - 5am daily)
My first thoughts about Java were illuminated in a broader context by a most excellent talk during the colloquium. Dr James Lees (University of the Western Cape) gave to us a presentation he regularly gives to his students. He used clips from the popular show X Factor to develop in our minds thoughts of being judgmental, feelings of empathy, and a gamut of other human emotions which were soon all present and tangible in the room. James’s presentation was a global lesson. Dr Lees works with young people suffering from HIV. He teaches people how to live and how to die with strength and harmony while dealing with this disease which finds little emphatic engagement amongst the world’s nations.
His work brings understanding to forgotten people who do not have time to enjoy beautiful moons dangling on the wings of airplanes.’ Walk in my shoes ‘ the slogan on the posters he distributed to everyone, a strong message. Extending the aspiration of that slogan slightly, the right to education is not for all the world’s children but it should be. In Bossacha observatory we were there to discuss Building the Scientific Mind with input from people of many differing disciplines. How many minds are lost to education, creative and scientific development by Hunger, HIV, War, Corruption, Ignorance, Prejudice, and Neglect? How can this planet strive to ensure that all its children now and in the future will be embraced by an education and have the freedom to indulge not just in scientific and creative expression but in life itself?
My experiences at Building the Scientific Mind 2013 can only be articulated through several blogs as it was so rich and varied in form and learning.
More on this soon and Action Sun at Bossacha Observatory
A selection of slide images for this first write up on the Colloquium
Early Morning call to prayer in Lembang West Java , the white thing in my video is the column on my balcony and the flashing red light is on a mast just in front of the volcano.
What's Up for June 2013 from Jane Houston Jones
I was looking at the Sun Now page on the Solar Dynamics Observatory site. Sometimes that page shows wonderful energetic explosions on the solar limb but it may be too cloudy for observing.
Sometimes the solar action can be enticing enough to set up the PST (Personal Solar Telescope) and sketch when the weather permits.
March 30th Easter Saturday was one such day. When I looked through my telescope there was a long twisting filament. Interesting north limb prominences challenged my eye as they altered their shapes over time.
When observing the sun you do not see the movement right in front of your eye. The sun is 149,600,000 km away from Earth and it takes eight minutes for its light to get to us. The observation of movement is perceived over 15 to 20 minutes and can lead to very useful sequences of drawings. In one way it’s like real time natural stop motion animation. Because my solar telescope is small the enormous solar disc (Diameter 1.39 million km) appears to be less than the 40mm diameter of the telescope. The filaments, active regions, sunspots and prominences are very tiny to the eye. A sunspot or prominence can be many times the size of the Earth but only millimetres to the eye. When I draw I look really really closely at the shapes, and textures of these features.
I pay great attention to the negative spaces, the black spaces between the multiple strands of plasma gas that are launched into space by the suns continuous activity.
Before I draw I observed the action for a while before deciding on an approach. It is difficult to draw filaments as they appear to the eye on the solar disc. Filaments can be very dark against the bright sun or very grey almost like stringy cobwebs. Filaments are eruptions of electrified plasma gas; they seem dark as they are cooler than the sun that created them. When a filament continues its action over the edge of the solar disc it is called a prominence. More structural detail within these features can be seen against the blackness of space. When a filament is seen to swing its action from the solar disc around the limb is it known as a filaprom.
For this drawing I used an etching method for the filaments, the combination of etching and drawing seems to give the desired effect for the moment.
Sketch details: Bray Co Wicklow
Easter Saturday North Limb proms and filaments on the solar disc.
Duration of sketching time 13:00 UT - 13:55 UT Telescope: PST 40mm - 8 mm eyepiece using Pastels, on black paper. On the same evening I was lucky to get a glimpse of Comet C 2011 L4 PanSTARRS from Bray
Click here for details Warning: NEVER look directly at the sun through binoculars, a telescope or with your unaided eye
permanent blindness can result from the shortest look. Only ever look at the Sun in a situation supervised by someone who knows what they're doing.
What's Up for April 2013 from Jane Houston Jones
Turn Left at Orion signed for the school library
St Cronans National School Bray had a very special visitor on Wednesday March 20. None other than the Vatican Astronomer Br Guy Consolmagno SJ. Originally I had invited him to drop in and shake hands with St Cronans Stargazers our astronomy club, but he very generously offered to give a talk for the whole school. 500 boys and their teachers were treated to a wonderfully pitched talk about the Vatican Observatory, the pope’s interest in the subject, the wonders of astronomy and all things that give joy in the vast universe in which we live.
The boys asked very intelligent questions, Br Guy gave them a listening ear, his answers inspired and intrigued the entire audience. Br Guy Consolmagno SJ is an American research astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican Observatory. He presented Principal Maeve Tierney with a signed copy of his famous book Turn Left at Orion for the school library.
Br Guy was delighted to visit Bray, after lunch in the Martello and a walk on the prom he dipped his hands in the Irish Sea, a rare moment for him in his busy global speaking schedule. I first met Br Guy back in 2005 at the Whirlpool Star Party, at the time I had no clue who he was but we had a warm conversation about binoculars and observing. I was invited to this premier event to give a talk about Enceladus ( one of Saturn’s ice moons) and found out next day that Guy was there to deliver a talk about Turn Left at Orion. We met up again during International Year of Astronomy 2009. Br Guy was on a speaking tour in Ireland. The first of his talks was at the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies and Dunsink Observatory, followed by Gonzaga College. We then continued on to COSMOS (Now - Irelands leading Star Party) in Tullamore and then to Blackrock Castle Observatory in Cork. If my memory serves me right, Guy delivered six different talks in five days to varying audiences everyone of them a polished gem in communicating the science and wonder of astronomy. More information on the Vatican and Br Guy Consolmagno click here. COSMOS 2013 April 12th - 14th Details hereSlide show from Br Guy Consolmagno's visit to Bray below - School visit images by Bernard Kelleghan
COSMOS 2013 see ye there !
Sketch East limb proms 93,000,000 miles away from Bray Co Wicklow January 12th 2012 10:50 UT - 11:20UT PST 40 / 8mm TVP eyepiece /50 X Pastel and Conte on black paper Seeing good Sketch is 9 inches X 4 inches on A4
Deirdre Kelleghan – Ireland Feb 18th 2013
The objects from my childhood that are still in my learning zone today are black paper and chalk. I was bored as a child in primary school, the only thing I really enjoyed was drawing. Simple drawings with white and coloured chalk in a small black papered book. The drawings were separated by tissue paper with strong indented patterns.
Today drawing complex images of the sun and the moon is one of the most poignant joys of my life. I use black paper and pastels. Pastels are sophisticated chalk and I have a thing about black paper, which is never quite black enough for me. I use my blackest black pastel to make it so. I draw to learn and understand, it is something I have done all my life, to draw is to know.
I am an old fashioned Astronomical Sketcher; it was big before astro photography. My drawings are like photographs and are very accurate. I know this because I can put a photograph of a solar image or lunar image taken at the same time beside my work and my drawing is accurate to a high degree. I take the sun and moon from the sky via my telescopes with my eyes and chalk and put them on black paper. This activity is soul filling and I love it. I teach astronomy through the medium of drawing and artistic activities and am never bored.
Almost Full Moon Lunation 12.75 days Sketch
Get the Moon in your head
‘At conjunction the moon occupies a position between the sun and the earth; it is then illuminated by the sun’s rays on the side which is turned away from the earth. The other hemisphere, which faces the earth, is covered with darkness; hence the moon does not illuminate the surface of the earth at all. Next departing gradually from the sun, the moon comes to be lighted partly upon the side it turns toward us, and its whitish horns, still very thin, illuminate the earth with a faint light. The sun’s illumination of the moon increasing now as the moon approaches first quarter, a reflection of that light to the earth also increases. Soon the splendour on the moon extends to a semicircle, and our nights grow brighter; at length the entire visible face of the moon is irradiated by the suns resplendent rays, and at full moon the whole surface of the earth shines in a flood of moon light. Now the moon, waning, sends us her beams more weakly, and the earth is less strongly lighted; at length the moon returns to conjunction with the sun, and black night covers the earth.’
Extract from Sidereus Nuncius (The Starry Messenger) 1610 by Galileo Galilei translation by Stillman Drake from the book Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo.
Now there ye have it, direct and clear from the master Galileo. Read it slowly, imagine it, and animate it in your mind. Observe it for yourself, spend time with the moon soon you will understand its movements.
Galileo was a great man for sharing the moon through his telescope. He shared with other scientists, princes, students, the pope, and artists. He was compelled to share it as it was such a magnificent sight even in his small telescope. He wrote Starry Messenger to share his drawings and observations of the moon, far and wide.
The way Galileo writes about the moon pulls you in to be part of his exploration. He thereby transports his readers to share his thoughts as he figures out the lunar surface, phases and features of the moon observed over 400 years ago. Today you can still find freshness pouring from his enquiring mind in his descriptive writing.
Sharing the moon with the public is an affliction borne with large smiles by many astronomers all over this planet. It’s amazing that there are so many people today that have never had an up close and personal view of the moon in a telescope. International observe the moon night invites astronomers to show the moon to people on September 22nd. This is a global event, with an increasing bubble of participants.
If you have binoculars or a telescope consider joining in and showing the moon to your neighbours. Register here its easy.
Check the map for other IFAS clubs sharing the moon on the night
The moon is a constant in our existence; our eyes are drawn by it to look up from all over the planet. Galileo made sense of the moon for us, at great risk to his freedom. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin lifted the entire planet by landing on it for the first time back in 1969. On September 22nd you can easily pick out the Sea of Tranquillity with your eyes. Wink at the moon is an action request from Neil Armstrong’s family, to honour his memory. It’s also a really cool simple public outreach exercise.
Weather permitting I will be on the promenade near Bray head with St Cronan’s Stargazers and our telescopes from 19:00 hrs till 20:30 approx September 22nd
What's up for September 2012 from Jane Houston Jones
On holidays in Waterville Co Kerry I had some luck with solar observing during this rainy winter of a summer. July 19th my first view of the solar disc in days presented me with what looked like a loop within a loop C shaped layered prom on the eastern limb. Oh that had to be sketched it looked unusual.
PST 40 @50X 10:15 U T it seemed to come from a slight depression on the limb.
I never got the chance to observe the big Active Region 1520 but suspected this might be a goodbye wave :-) I like to be accurate in drawing solar features so I can compare my drawings to images taken at more or less the same time. This does two things A) Its feedback on the my accuracy and B) I learn from others who imaged the feature in order to further understand what is going on in my observation. On this occasion my sketch was of a Coronal Loop. Magnetic looped prominences like this often occur after a large explosion on the sun, such was the case in my observation that morning. This powerful activity continued for something like twelve hours.
Image of the loop by Dave Tyler included in the slideshow below.
Once again on July 26th I had the happy chance of observing an enormous twisting prom on the NE limb. Never seen anything like it before, it was a veritable cornucopia of plasma gas swirling from the apparent edge of the sun. The rest of the disc had very busy filaments jumping and twisting like ropes .
I am continually working on techniques to sketch filaments, active regions, flares, and proms. The challenge of capturing the sun on paper is in my opinion one of the most difficult gauntlets to satisfy in astronomical drawing.
WOW !! this is huge in the hall
St Pauls Senior Girls National School in Greenhill’s Dublin 12 is just a few minutes’ walk from the house where I grew up. It was fortuitous to have the opportunity to carry out my third Action Sun for a school in this area.
On June 25th 47 young girls from third class, took part in building the sun. This was a very positive group all eager to get going and get busy. Streamers of orange and red paper flew through the air in vast amounts. In a short time the photosphere began to grow in the schools courtyard.
The activity of Action Sun supports the school curriculum in its art as it uses mixed media to create the sun. The program uses paint and paper to convey activity and explosive movement on the solar disc. Action Sun also supports primary school art as it enables children to use the characteristics of the materials to make structures and features on the solar disc. Making the sun in this way is both creative and explorative. Learning a little science through the arts facilitates the use of many kinds of intelligences. The learning process in the making is as valuable as the finished suns. Textures and spatial organisation also comes into the creation of this work. The girls at St Pauls School were very good at working as a group, helping each other out. They also made good decisions during the activity which showed they were an excellent team. This is kinesthetic learning, learning by doing.
Action Sun compliments science in the primary school curriculum on several levels. A short information talk in between making the suns features informs the children about our suns role in the solar system. We talk about the scale of the sun and the Earth. We talk about the energy of the sun and its function in relation to the other planets. The mini talks make sure that the children understand that the sun is our main source of heat and light. By building the sun the children learn by hands on investigation. The children literally explore the physical features of the sun with their hands in mini scale. A quick review of the evaluation sheets shows the quality of the learning. Several children not only drew sketches of the complex sun but also put in arrows to the different features and labelled them all correctly. The action of throwing the paper was very popular, signing their names was also a highlight and for some children carrying the sun into the hall was the stand out moment of the day.
When I look at the sun in my solar telescope I see a huge amount of detail and very often in the past I have shared that view with children. However it takes a long time to show this view to a large group as the sun presents as a small disc with tiny features. It is difficult for children to comprehend the enormous scale of our nearest star. I put Action Sun together to bridge that gap and help more people achieve some understanding of this wonderful star in safety with a big fun element.
The features of the sun itself were totally new to this young group, but at the end of the programme words like photosphere, chromosphere, filaments, prominences and sunspots were all a little more familiar. We closed our eyes at the end of the build and held our faces up to the sun to feel its heat and remind ourselves that it takes eight minutes for its light to get to us here on Earth, a 93 million mile smile. Building the sun took about 90 minutes. The 7.9 X 4.9 meter tarpaulin was pre prepared at home using four litres of matte black masonry paint. During the activity we used approx 3,500 individual pre cut pieces of crepe paper ,15 litres of washable PVA glue, 6 litres of yellow paint , 1 litre of red paint, plus the energy of forty seven eight and nine year old third class girls.
My thanks to Sarah Jayne Reid for setting up Action Sun at St Pauls and to Phil Curran for all her efforts prior to, during and post the build. Thanks to Ms Keating, Ms Daly and Principal Sr Maureen for their support during the activity. NASA Sun Earth Day bookmarks, posters and other educational material were provided to the teachers. The solar feature data for this Action Sun was an observation of the disc made from my PST earlier that morning. The Solar Dynamics Observatory website was pointed out to the girls so they could continue to watch the sun safely.
What's Up for July 2012 from Jane Houston Jones
As I approached the City of Kilkenny medieval towers and spires broke the dull May skyline. Pure yellow rapeseed fields painted sunshine on the landscape. Rich green wheat moved slowly in the cold breeze each side of the motorway.
At Kilkenny Castle on National Drawing Day my Action Sun participants were young families randomly stopping by and taking part for short periods. Small children throwing crepe paper photosphere clumps with smiles on their tiny faces. Just as well for the completion of the project that two boys Max Gronowski aged 12 and Daragh Lynch aged 12 got stuck into it from the start. They helped paint the acrylic / glue base, the root for two of the suns atmospheres. As the solar build progressed my information spiel became simply a three and a half hour conversation with the boys. They asked questions, I answered; we discussed the photosphere as we threw our orange paint dipped paper targeting the empty spaces on this sixteen foot highly textured sun. They asked ‘where did the sun come from’? What will happen to the sun in the future? How big is the sun? They could not wait to fill in the photosphere and move on to apply the chromosphere. We talked about solar telescopes, space telescopes, the dangers of looking at the sun, the Venus Transit, Apollo 11, becoming an astronaut, Mars, going to Mars, Mars Science Laboratory, photosynthesis, energy and light. At that point Action sun had become a constructive dialogue with two very tenacious boys. Some parents came to help for a while and we were joined for the last hour or so by Matthew Shortall aged 9 who helped to make our photosphere denser which on a solar disc of that diameter was a very big task. Daragh said it would be great if we had music to work by, ‘what kind of music?’ I asked, Beethoven was the unexpected reply.
We had dragged the sun through the clouds and reproduced it on the ground. Groups of adults got answers to ‘what’s going on here? Is that the sun? ‘Ha ha I have not seen that for weeks’. ‘Does it really look like that?’ ‘What are the black things?’
Max helped place the sunspots using my drawing made directly from the Solar Dynamics Observatory website at 09:02 IST. We made the filaments, I added the prominences; local papers took photographs of the creation. The sun never showed its face at Kilkenny Castle that day but as each hour went by the sun on Earth was growing brighter every minute as our build continued.
Venus, a black polystyrene ball on the end of a stick, demonstrated the transit as seen from Ireland against the newly created sun. The Earth had escaped from my car earlier and spent the day in the middle of my driveway.
We actually ran out of time, our photosphere big as it became, was just not dense enough and the boys knew it. Our red thinly spaced solar chromospheric paper fluttered in the wind. Sticky hands and paint splattered tee shirts told the story of almost four hours of creative work.
For their wonderful effort I gave the boys NASA Sun Earth Day packs. They helped me give out Venus Transit information to all who passed by. Max, Darragh and Matthew signed their names proudly to the giant canvas as they had done most of the work. The 7.9 X 4.9 meter Action Sun will hang at Dunsink Observatory during Solarfest on June 23rd. The photosphere will be complete by then.
Action Sun first light was with St Cronans Stargazers children’s school club on May 4th 2012. Sixteen boys and I constructed an eight foot solar disc based on my early morning observations. This eager group worked on the sun interspaced by pockets of solar information delivered in short bursts which punctuated the action. Link to blog
Action Sun was funded by Dublin City of Science 2012 and The Butler Gallery Kilkenny Castle , Kilkenny City. Action Sun was a NASA Sun Earth Day event alsoAction Sun – is an indoor or outdoor activity which allows groups of children to participate in building a large solar disc or several solar discs. This Earth built sun mimics the photosphere and chromosphere of the sun, includes sunspots, filaments, and prominences present on the sun ideally in real time. The materials are simple, paper, glue and paint. It is kinaesthetic participatory learning for young children. The activity educates and supports science through art and the creative process.
Slide show of Action Sun at Kilkenny Castle
What's Up for June 2012 from Jane Houston Jones - The Transit of Venus of course :-)
MSL on the Atlas V on the Pad
On the evening pre launch NASA tour we were privileged to stand within 150 yards of the Atlas V with MSL perched on top. Silhouetted against the sun this 191 foot assemblly of scientific ambition stood a little less than half the height of the Apollo Saturn V. At 363 feet The Saturn V was the largest rocket ever built and is more comparable height wise to the familiar stainless street sculpture the Spire of Dublin which is 398 feet. After an unlimited photographic bonanza we left the launch pad to head back toward the Vehicle Assembly Building. On our journey groups of red haired hogs appeared , munching in the evening grass as the sun set on an unforgettable day.
Ahead, an invite to a Marstini party and a visit to an Observatory. The party was in a suburban house were everyone seemed to take it for granted that there was a swimming pool in the patio. The Gale House (named in honour of the landing place for MSL Gale Crater ) was occupied by a large group of Tweeps who had somehow managed to put a very cool party together. It was nice to meet up with other folks who had been in touch with me via Twitter before I left Ireland. @TashaVerse such a good welcome , Jen Scheer @flyingjenny said hi because @commanderbyrne had told her too oh !! what a twangled world the Twitterverse is. :-) @Joi_the_Artist showed me some of her richly coloured drawings while I sipped my Marstini before being introduced to @MarsCuriosity and several others whose @ names have escaped me. After some delicious food, I headed to the BCC Planetarium and Observatory with Jane @jhjones for to join in the public evening. The indoor Moon set up impressed me, I wanted to bring it home to Ireland. In the observatory we looked at Jupiter through a 24 inch scope, while soft spoken astronomers called out the positions of Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. On the roof I looked at Orion rising on its side, the words of Robert Frost’s poem never rang so clear and true. The constellation looked like it had fallen down the sky, or perhaps it was me who had tumbled down the planet. The sideways view caused by the clockwork artistry of the workings of the night sky.
Next morning I was picked up at 6am on the dot by @Stephist and was twittering away by 06:25.
@TheScienceGuy Bill Nye looking very dapper spoke about everything
. The chief administrator of NASA Charles Bolden gave an impassioned talk about MSL being the precursor of future human Mars missions. Lori Garver the deputy administrator of NASA spoke with great excitment. Astronauts Leyland Melvin @Astro_Flow and Doug Wheelock @Astro_Wheels conducted the astronaut only sport of 'let’s have a midair chest crash just because we can' , and William James Adams @iamwill joined them to speak about education . The Black Eyed Pea star has invested millions of his own dollars in educational programs for young people. @Camilla_SDO said hello to me at the mornings Eyes on the Solar System demo. During the launch group photo that cheeky chicken came flying through the air for me to catch so it could preen its feathers bang on centre of the photo front row.
At T minus 30 I hugged the blow up MSL beside the countdown clock and was then asked to give my thoughts to camera by Lou Braga @Photog4NY so I did. It was very surreal to be there beside this iconic digital clock as I had watched it for years on TV following various launches from Apollo to that pending moment. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 the moment was real, the Atlas V with MSL ascended in silence. I looked at it rise and in that muted moment my past present and future merged. The sound followed and engulfed me totally. I watched till the smoke trail dissipated into imperceptible particles before returning to continue tweeting. After spacecraft separation and a huge cheer in the twent, I sat down at my table. 54 years of tears decided to pick that moment to flow. I knew then I was in the right place in my life.
On the plane home as I eased back time to my reality the winder came off in my hand, a timeless moment but for me time had truly stood still when the silent rocket left this planet for Mars.
The Star Splitter a poem by Robert Frost
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My MSL launch video made using my camera for stills and my mobile for sound.
What's Up for December 2011 from Jane Houston Jones