Excitement of Science 2009

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Observations of Supernovae

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1Observations of Supernovae Empty Observations of Supernovae on Sun Mar 01, 2009 1:46 pm

Hi Everyone,

Like Tim at Jodrell Bank, I am just getting to grips with the forum, but just to let you know that after a period of bad weather at the mountaintop in the Canary Islands where the robotic Liverpool Telescope is situated, we have now been able to commence test observations of a few recently discovered supernovae whose properties we will be exploring together over the coming months.

Once we have confirmed that the way we have set things up allows schools to access sensible data, we will let you know. Hopefully it won't be long!

Over the next day or so a new button will appear on the left hand side of the EoS Home page entitled "Optical Observations" or something similar giving details of the telescope and how to get at the data. In the meantime, you might want to have a browse around the Liverpool Telescope's main website (http://telescope.livjm.ac.uk/) or that of the National Schools' Observatory (http://www.schoolsobservatory.org.uk/).

As this is the first time we will have conducted observations of supernovae in this way for schools, and the supernovae we will be observing have only just been discovered, we are not quite sure what we will find - but that's (as they say) "The Excitement of Science"!

Cheers for now,


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2Observations of Supernovae Empty Re: Observations of Supernovae on Sun Mar 01, 2009 2:34 pm

Yippee!! I'm sure that I'm not the only one that can't wait to get started!

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3Observations of Supernovae Empty Re: Observations of Supernovae on Wed Mar 04, 2009 1:53 am

The good news is that we got our first supernova with LT on Saturday night.

The bad news is that the weather closed in again. In fact the mountaintop had to be evacuated because of snow and ice yesterday (you thought the weather was bad at Jodrell yesterday...;-) ). Our daytime engineer (Dirk Raback) only just made it down to sea level in time.

You can keep an eye on the weather at http://telescope.livjm.ac.uk/Live/ or look at weather records at http://www.schoolsobservatory.org.uk/obs/lt/weather/. Things change very rapidly up there, so we hope for better very soon.

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4Observations of Supernovae Empty Re: Observations of Supernovae on Wed Mar 04, 2009 7:48 am

Evacuated?? That sounds bad.... Well it is bad, but evacuated from snow and ice??? That just sounds mildly silly....

I know its not but I didn't realise it'd get that bad...

Glad you're all ok, and would it be possible to view the Supernova anywhere?

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5Observations of Supernovae Empty Re: Observations of Supernovae on Sun Mar 08, 2009 11:28 am

Yes it is a pretty serious situation which happens every year or so. The road to the top (which is at 2400m of course) has around 300 bends and sheer drops at times. Not to be taken lightly in snow and ice and evacuation of the observatories is a wise precaution under these circumstances. An astronomer from the NOT telescope was killed on the way down a couple of years ago for example.

There is an image at


and others in this sequence which show what it can be like. I have been there when it has seemed the nearest thing to the Antarctic, while at sea level of course it is sub-tropical! On one memorable occasion, we came down from the summit and ice was still on the roof of our 4x4 when we drove along the sea front, with holiday makers in shorts sitting outside the cafes - quite bizarre!

The weather seems to have improved now and data taking has resumed. We will release the data as soon as we are happy with them and the reduction tools are all in place. Should not be long!

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6Observations of Supernovae Empty Re: Observations of Supernovae on Sun Mar 08, 2009 3:23 pm

That sounds fairly treacherous, and im sorry to hear about that guy.

On a more positive note, those pics make that island look like heaven. They are amazing!! =)

Fingers crossed for a start on the optical telescope soon ><[ (Doesn't look like fingers but hey...)

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7Observations of Supernovae Empty Re: Observations of Supernovae on Sat Mar 14, 2009 6:38 pm

I wasnt sure where else to put information about what e092 had found out so i decided this part was most up to date.

It was ealier this week during one of e092 sessions thats we were looking at some spectral data and were working with the equation V=WF, V in this case is equal to C

C = Speed of light (we used 1 s.f. of 3X10 8 ms-1)
V = Velocity
W = Wavelength
F = Fequency

From Spectral data of a scan done by us on the 10th of march of our first patch of sky 120 we found 3 frequencys peaks on our graph:-


all working out to 0.21 metres or 21 centimetres wavelength (obviously EM Waves travel at C)

Now we were currently looking at things to do with waves in phsysics like the doppler effect etc and we (e092) started looking into things like this. Then on the 15th march i was watching The Universe on the history channel which was about supernoavs. Now ages after the basic Type 1 and Type 2 introduction 43 minuites into my recording i suddenly thought Type 2 Hydrogen and started thinking about emmision spectras (as you do at 12:06 on a saturday night/ sunday morning). I quickly started grabbing every data book i had and looking on the internet at hydrogen. Surely enough exact match

out of our 3 peaks, peak 2 1420.4 was bang on exact, and our wavelength of 21 cm Hydrogen. On emission spectra the 21 cm line is hydrogen. This is equivilent to the frequency of 1420.4.

So weve got hydrogen

So e092 has had its first breakthough. This is just the beginning obviously and weve still got things were unsure about. This however has shed light on what we are actually looking at, and got us thinking. Our patch of the sky appears to run acorss an area very abundant in hydrogen. Now linking to supernovas, A Type II supernova known for releasing lots of Hydrogen. These unlike Type 1a are all uniquire in there own way (Type 1a are fairly uniform and have mixed spectras of heavier elements). But with hydoregn making 3/4's of all visible matter being the most abunant element in the universe who knows. So to conclude is our spectral scan showing Hydrogen because were pointing it at the remnants of a Type 2 supernova, or simply just other stars and interstella medium etc the usuall. But these frequency highs and peaks arent anything unusuall and are actually far from it well within the range of modern radio astronomy. But were starting to think more now.

We'll know for sure when we go optical, But these are our works and thoughts so far

Any Ideas?

Joe Gannon, 16, QKS, Kendal e092

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8Observations of Supernovae Empty Re: Observations of Supernovae on Sun Mar 15, 2009 11:45 am

Hi Joe, Many thanks for your detailed note. Yes, you are on the right lines in that the radio observations are (predominantly) picking up emission from Hydrogen at a wavelength of 21cm. As you say, H is the most abundant element in the Universe. You are also correct that Type II supernovae are more H-rich than Type Ia (we'll learn more about that when the optical observations begin in earnest - weather improving, but still mixed). However, most of what you are seeing in the radio maps is indeed not emission from supernovae, but from the general interstellar medium. There are exceptions to this however, as will be seen as the maps develop. Watch this space!
Mike Bode

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9Observations of Supernovae Empty Re: Observations of Supernovae on Tue Mar 31, 2009 3:25 pm

Hi,are there any updates on the weather and when do you think the telescope will come online?

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10Observations of Supernovae Empty Re: Observations of Supernovae on Thu Apr 02, 2009 12:48 am

Hi, The weather seems to be improving at long last and we are able to start taking some test observations. We will notify all schools as soon as we are ready to go. In the meantime, you can see what the telescope and weather are up to at http://www.schoolsobservatory.org.uk/obs/lt/webcam/. First thing in the morning and around sunset here at the moment, you can see the telescope open or close. Browse around that page to find e.g. weather statistics etc. As I say, we hope to be able to open up the programme to schools as soon as possible.
All the best,

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