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On today's show, find out how you can get involved in stargazing.
Discover why there is an incredible 400,000 pieces of space junk
orbiting our earth and how you can Welcome to a special episode of
Blue Peter from the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire. Astronomy
research has been taking place here since 1945, using telescopes like
that one. It works by picking up very faint radio signals coming
from objects far across the universe such as galaxies and black
holes and exploded stars. It was the first telescope in the world
able to track satellites. Stargazing Live is here for three
nights. It is a show on BBC Two that shows images from
observatories around the globe. Here is a flavour of what they have
So far, stargazing presenters Brian Cox and Dara O'Briain have been
checking out the moon and looking at some amazing pictures of its
surface. This is the face of the moon that
we are familiar with. You see the seas and the uplands.
They spoke to the last astronaut ever to walk on the moon.
Open it up to these young kids and inspire them to dream the
impossible and the impossible will happen.
We are going to be catching up with Professor Brian Cox soon. Dara, the
title stargazing under sells it a bit, it isn't just stars? When you
look up and see the dots above you, many aren't stars. One is a huge
cloud of gas and dust that that comes together to make more stars.
In London you go there is Big Ben, how do you find landmarks in the
sky? There are some consolation that is are memorable. The Plough
is the one that most people recognise straight off. It is
shaped like a frying pan and sometimes it is like that and
sometimes more like that, but from the Plough you take the top part of
the Plough, the top of the frying pan and follow those two-stars out
and then you get to the North Star and when you fin the obvious
consolations you jump. It is wonderful that it is up there.
Some nights will be better than others. Tonight, we are expecting
to be doing stuff, there is time for people to find a planet. It is
a simple thing. We have footage of stars and we see the bit where the
lighthouse dip as bit. We can see the dip where the thing goes in
front of it and if we click on that, we are confident we will find new
planets. . It is incredible. Why do you
think children should start it get involved with stargazing? What
makes it so appealing? You can't just not get caught up with the
wonder of it, the epic scale of it. The sun was here, Mars is 40 fields
that way and the sheer size, the massive size of it, but yet all
visible from here. The moon is spinning around us, but we and the
moon are spinning around the sun and we are spinning through the
Milk Way and the Milk Way is spinning with the sister galaxy,
spinning around the universe. We are flying at unimaginable speeds.
It is incredible to think that's going on above our heads and it
sounds complicated and you have gases exploding, and Jupiter is
over there somewhere. It sounds complicated, but stargazing is so
What I know about stargazing is that it needs to be dark. The skies
need to be clear and if you go out on a January's evening, you need to
make sure you are nice and warm. Whether You are using your eyes or
a telescope, I will find out what is there. To get me started is Nick
from the European Space Agency. First, let's look at what you can
see with the naked eye. Constellations are a great place.
If you look to the North, you will see the Plough. It is shaped like a
see the Plough. It is shaped like a sauce pan, it is easy to find.
In the south, you have got the constellation of Orion.
You say Look North and south. It looks like a big bit of space. How
get the point where you know you are starting from? A compass. You
can You can use these to guide yourself around the sky.
Now let's step it up a gear. Nick, I have brought the essential
stargazing equipment, hot chocolate, what have you brought? Binoculars.
They can really enhance your viewing even more than the naked
eye. You can look at the moon. The moon is covered in seas and these
are ancient volcanoes and you can see that clearly, but through
binoculars, you can see more details. You can see the craters in
the moon. You can start start off with
binoculars, but they get bigger. have I have brought a small
telescope with me and you can pick one of these up for �50. The
wonderful thing about telescopes, they enhance your view of the sky,
you can see the International Space Station.
There is a wonderful website called Heavens Above and you can put in
your postcode and it will tell you when the space station is moving
overhead. If you were to use a telescope like this, you could see
the solar panels. Some telescopes cost millions and,
but if you are in the UK, you can get your hands on them free.
Through your school, you can log on to a website, which will allow you
to operate the telescopes, one in Hawaii and one in Australia. It was
here at the University of Glamorgan in Cardiff where a young girl using
a computer and internet connection discovered new asteroids and a
fragmenting Comet and what is more exciting, she was on work
experience. Han narks hi. -- Hannah, hi.
Discovering asteroids is all in a day's work for you, isn't it?
How did you do it? I was using telescopes to take images of the
sky. I was given coordinates like on a satnav, pointing the telescope
at a certain region and taking pictures and seeing what I could
see. And what did you see? I saw images
like this little do. That's an asteroid, that is.
An asteroid is a large rocky object that orbits the sun, but it is too
small to be considered a planet. Over 500,000 have been discovered,
but there are many thousands of smaller ones yet to be found. How
significant a find is this? How excited are you about this? For me,
it is very exciting. I am one of the youngest to discover something
like this, considering there are big organisations all over the
globe looking for asteroids that might hit us or not, it turned out
out to be more than a life experience than a work experience.
If you would like to have a a go, the good news is, you can speak to
your teachers and they can register your school and you can have a go.
You never know, you might make your How amazing is that? A young girl
on work experience discovers new asteroids. If you are going to look
at the skies, please don't look at the sun. It is very dangerous. I
thought that the Jodrell Bank Observatory was a great place to
find stars and I am right, I have found one, it is John Culshaw.
Let's talk about stargazing and what it is about, we haven't met
Professor Brian Cox yet, but if he were here, what do you think he
would say about stargazing and why it is cool? He is disguised at this
moment, astrology is the greatest of all the sciences and anyone can
try it and it is there, the night sky is there for you to observe and
discover. So anyone can embark on, you could go on... It is so good to
watch you do it. Not only are we gazing at a star,
but a star in our midst. If you can talk to anyone anyone
that you have impersonated over the years, which one do you think would
make good stargazers. Michael McIntyre. You are so far
away. Why does it take Voyager so long to get there.
Ozzy Osbourne might be interested in space!
He sees it for real most of the time. Perhaps Simon Cowell I think.
He would probably set about judging the planets, OK Jupiter, I thought
you were a bit big. It is all all a bit gassy. Saturn, I don't think
you need the rings. Pluto, you are too small to be a planet. It is a
no from me. Thank you.
One thing before you go, why is stargazing important to you? Why do
you think it is special? Well, I have always been fascinate by it --
fascinated by it. It is a beautiful science. You can't fail to be
impressed by the majesty of a night sky. Seeing a total eclipse, they
are all beautiful wonderful things and they get yourure osity. --
curiosity. You need to understand how the
Earth, the sun and the moon orbit each other. Here is Gem to tell you
We are here at an observatory in East Sussex with a group of superb
young astronomers and we are waiting for a challenge to come in.
It should be coming any moment. I wondered how the Earth, sun and
moon move around each other. People used to think the sun moves around
the Earth, but that's not true, is it? It seems like a massive
challenge. Are you up for it? ALL: Yes.
You have got to get changed to make yourselves look like the Earth, the
moon and the sun and I have got to figure out the rest of it! Whilst
the kids are getting ready, I am going to mark out a little bit of
Now this circular path is the one that the earth is going to have to
That's my orbit. Now all I need are So that was the fastest looking
solar system I have seen. You guys are going to be an element of the
solar system, you two in blue, you are the Earth. How long do you
think it takes the Earth to do one rotation, spin on its axis? One day.
One day, spot on. That's why it looks as though the sun rises and
sets once a day. So come together and start start spinning around. Oh,
beautiful. Come on, around you go. Don't disappear into space! It
can't be that difficult! The Earth does it all day and never
complains. Fantastic, I'm loving that. That's like a day. Nice
spinning! Now we need your moon. The moon is smaller than the Earth.
It is a lot smaller, but we are going to have one body as the moon.
How long do you think it takes you, as the moon, to go all the way
around the Earth? A week. A week is not bad. A quarter of the
way there. The moon always keeps its same face to the earth. We only
ever see one side of the moon. While these guys are turning, you
go around with them. Perfect, keep looking at them. Now for the most
important body in the solar system, the thing that holds the solar
system together - the sun. You go at the centre of the solar system.
It is your massive gravity that stops the planets flinging off into
outer space. You have an important job. You have to be energetic. Feel
free to shout instructions! You are here, providing energy and
encouragement. I am going to get out there to these guys. So keep
spinning around. Keep spinning and this is your orbit now. You have
one year to make it all the way Don't crash into the Earth!
# I am so dizzy, my head is spinning hrbg. The Earth is going
to burn up. So thought, "No, you're coming too close to the sun."
Don't come too close to the sun. You're going to burn up.
You're going to burn up planet earth.
This is brilliant. Keep going. Keep going. In real life, you are
supposed to be going 67,000mph. are coming too close to the sun.
Ah, that was good gravity. He have kept them in such a good orbit.
We managed it. We have managed to simulate the movement of the
planets using just six people. Now, what we have got going on here is
the sun is in the centre and its enormous gravity is holding the
solar system together, stopping the Earth the Earth drifting out to
space. The Earth goes around the sun once a year and the moon goes
around the Earth once a month and it goes off in our solar system all
the time. I think these fellas have done an amazing job. It is not easy,
but I recommend trying it. Best of Still to come, we put your
questions to top TV presenter, questions to top TV presenter,
Professor Brian Cox. And how you can use a vitamin
tablet and water to create your very own mini rocket. Welcome to
the control room. This is where all the telescopes at Jodrell Bank
Observatory are operated. Watch what happens when I press this
button. I want one! You may think the sky
goes on and on out there, but things are getting more and more
cluttered and to find out how big a problem space junk is, we sent
someone to find out more. I am an astronomer and I am
passionate about everything in space.
From stars and planets to galaxies and black holes, it is my job to
get as many people as possible interested in what lies in our
planet. There is something getting in the way, rubbish. We seem to
create a lot of it. Even the countryside is covered in litter.
There is a massive area the Pacific Ocean which is known as the Garbage
Patch because it is covered in so much waste. It seems we are making
a mess in space. Experts reckon there are nearly 400,000 pieces of
space junk orbiting around the Earth. These are fragments of old
satellites or rockets. That sounds dangerous to me. So I have come to
this observatory to meet someone who likes space, but this guy
really knows his space junk! Professor Richard is study effects
that space junk is starting to have above our heads. These are the
controls for the huge radar dish outside.
Yes. Do you want to steer the antenna?
Yes. Do you realise that finger is pushing 220 tonnes of metal around?
First things first, how bad is this problem? We can track almost 6,000
tonnes of objects in space of which only 5% are operational spacecraft.
So if there are thousands and thousands of pieces of space junk
up there, why is it that satellites aren't hit more often? Space is
quite vast, but we believe that collisions are occurring. Recently
in 2009, there was a collision between a Russian defunct
spacecraft and an operational spacecraft operated by the US.
That produced thousands and thousands of fragments.
We will not be able to see those fragments, but I want to find out
what satellites are above us now. I can see a map of the world. What
are these little dots? Each of these dots represents a satellite
in the constellation of mobile phone satellites.
Space junk is a problem for things up in space, but can it cause
problems down here on earth as well? We rely on space for so many
things, navigation in our cars and communications with mobile phones.
There is a lot of stuff up there in space. Does any of it fall back
down to earth? Everything that we launch into space around the Earth
will come back towards us. A good example is a fuel tank. This is a
titanium tank from a satellite and these are found in deserts and
washed up by the ocean because they have fall noon the water and
floated to a nearby shore. Recently there was a satellite that came
back to earth. Now most of the satellite burnt out on re-entry,
but some of it survive. No one was injured when it landed.
No one has been hurt by falling space junk.
Is there anything we can do about the stuff that's up there? There
are suggestions about how we can develop a space space vacuum
cleaner. There are opportunities to use solar sails, that can bring
satellite back. So it drags it back to earth?
Literally. The best solution is not to put so
much junk up there? That's right. Our humans need to learn from our
mistakes and stop making a mess because having to clean it up
I guess the most exciting part about stargazing is that you get to
talk to legends like Professor Brian Cox. Hello.
So you are a professor, that means you know a lot of stuff about a lot
of things. With the universe being your subject, you guess you are
learning and discovering new things? That's the point of science.
The point of science is to go and standing on the edge of your your
knowledge and look out into the unknown.
I am going to talk you through the questions sent in. Indigo Reading
Silkworm says how hot is the centre of the earth and why is it that
temperature? I don't know the exact temperature, but hot enough, it is
heat that has been trapped for 4.5 billion years.
Appetite Wintry Camel says, "Hi Brian, me and my family love
watching your programmes. If you were able to spend a day with any
celebrity, who would it be?". a lot of requests. Recently, the
two celebrities I have been talking to, Gary Barlow tweeted me from
Take That and said he was into the programmes and he would learn about
stargazing and the other person was general ter Saunders who --
Jennifer Saunders who tweeted and says she loves this stuff. You find
out that everybody is interested actually which is a wonderful thing.
Another viewer says, "My five-year- old brother says where do the stars
go in the day time?". Well, they are still there. The stars are
shining out, but you can't see them because the sun is so bright.
Another viewer says, "Hi Brian, you are my idle, you have inspired me
to get stargazing, every night I have been hoping for a clear sky.
My mum and I have been fascinated by the moon's craters, do you know
what causes them?". They are caused by meteorite impacts. The reason
you don't see them is because they have been eroded by the weather and
the shifting of the Continents and the oceans. It is one of the
reasons that we are interested in the moon, it is like a fossil from
the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.
Another viewer says, "My dad brought me a telescope. My question
is, I know it is not sciency, do you like the flying saucer sweets?".
Do I like the flying saucer sweets? I have never had one.
Are you kidding? Yeah. You know what they are? They have
fizzy stuff inside. No, I have had one, but years and
years ago and I do like them. Yeah, fizzy, flying saucer sweets.
Final question from another viewer, "if you could go to any planet,
which planet would it be?". I think I would go to Mars because we are
beginning to suspect there might be life there.
As far as development goes and things that are exciting, look out
for Mars? We are on our way to Mars. There is a lot of missions going
there with the intention of finding life.
If you didn't get a chance to sen a question -- send a question in,
don't worry, Professor Brian Cox is doing a web chat tomorrow.
It is all very well deciding what planet you want to go to, but you
need to get there, you will need a rocket. To fly the rocket, you need
to know how it works. We asked Gem I have made a fair few rockets and
some of them have been scary. We need some little camera film cases.
We need water. We need some fizzy vitamin tablets and probably some
card and scissors. Do you reckon you can get that? We can get them.
How does it actually work? This water and these tablets, they
combine together to make the fuel of the rocket. Now when the tablets
get dropped in water, they start fizzing and that fizzing is them
giving off gas. A gas called carbon dioxide. If we confine that inside
here, then the gas pressure keeps building up. When the gas pressure
gets sufficiently high, bang, it bursts the launchpad off, and your
So we have got amazing looking rockets now. But it is the moment
of truth. We have got to see how they fly. You have got to take the
bottom off your rocket, then you get your fuel tablet, break it up
into little pieces and then you decide what is the right amount of
fuel to put in. All of it. You put the lot in. Oh my life. I'm staying
at this end of the table. The next thing, you have to decide how much
water you put in. The water reacts with the rocket fuel to produce the
gas, the other, it provides the weight, the mass for the rocket to
throw out the energy to throw itself forwards.
Yours is going to go off quick, I reckon. You don't want to be losing
that power so make sure your lid is handy as quickly as possible put
the lid on and jam it closed. Turn The gas is forced out of the bottom
of the rocket. This creates an opposite upward force called thrust.
Our home-made rockets work on a similar principle, creating thrust.
Is everybody ready to fuel up their rockets? This is crucial that we
get this right. Ready? Three, 2-1 - lid on.
I have done it. I have done it.
Oh, look at that one. Yes!
There you go, Barney, you wanted us to build a rocket and we have we
have built loads of them. They are not difficult that. You can make
them at school, you can make at home, but launch them outside, and
So that's it from Jodrell Bank Observatory. I hope you have
enjoyed yourself and learned a lot about the solar system and the
planets. Watch Stargazing Live tonight on BBC Two at 8pm and you
can download the activity cards on can download the activity cards on
the website. All that's left for you to do is to