When galaxies collide: the growth of supermassive black holes

Research done by TiS volunteer, Vikram Ravi and colleagues. Well done Vikram on some amazing research.

News @ CSIRO

By Vikram Ravi, University of Melbourne and Ryan Shannon, Astronomy and Space Science, CSIRO

Galaxies may look pretty and delicate, with their swirls of stars of many colours – but don’t be fooled. At the heart of every galaxy lies a supermassive black hole, including in our own Milky Way.

Black holes in some nearby galaxies contain ten billion times the mass of our sun in a volume a few times the size of our solar system. That’s a lot of mass in a very small space – not even light travels fast enough to escape a black hole’s gravity.

So how did they get that big? In the journal Science, we tested a commonly-held view that black holes become supermassive by merging with other black holes – and found the answer is not quite that simple.

Searching for gravitational waves

The answer may lie in…

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astroEDU, peer-reviewed online astronomy education activities

Thanks Rob! What an excellent resource for all Astronomy and Science Educators. I highly recommend searching through the various activities. Hopefully Telescopes in Schools will be able to add a few of their own soon.

Universe @ CSIRO

Astronomy is a fascinating subject that inspires many children.  It is also a subject that has many wonderful resources available for teachers to use with their students. A challenge for many educators though is sorting through the large range available to find quality activities that are both scientifically and educational valid and age-appropriate.  astroEDU is a new open-access platform of peer-reviewed educational astronomy activities designed to help educators worldwide.

astroEDU homepage
astroEDU homepage

AstroEDU was launched last week in Warsaw during the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) Communicating Astronomy with the Public Conference. It is a project from the IAU’s Office of Astronomy for Development and headed by members of the Task Force for Children and Schools. All educational resources on astroEDU are peer-reviewed by both educators and professional astronomers.

As the platform has just been launched the number of resources currently available is small but growing. The team behind the…

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Astrophotography Awards

On Saturday afternoon, Scienceworks and Melbourne Planetarium hosted our first (hopefully of many) Astrophotography Competition Award ceremony. This was an event to celebrate the work that the participants from the TiS program had done over the past two years and an opportunity to see what schools had produced. All of the entrants are on the gallery page. You can see there were some great images and we are looking forward to seeing what students and teachers come up with in the future. Let us know which one you thought was the best and why.

Planetarium Exhibit

Planetarium Exhibit

The competition and award ceremony had been organised with Simon Keily (@aus_teach), a Programs Coordinator at Scienceworks, after we had met at a Teach Meet at Scienceworks earlier in the year and discovered we both had a passion for education and Astronomy. It was an amazing opportunity to have the ceremony at the Planetarium and also have the images exhibited in the foyer and on the Planetarium screen. Thanks to all the staff at Scienceworks who have fostered this collaboration and turned it into something well beyond everyone’s expectations. The winning images can be seen in the Melbourne Planetarium foyer for the next couple of months. So if you are in Melbourne and have always wanted to check out Scienceworks, now is the time, head down and catch a Planetarium show while you are there!

There were 9 awards in total for the competition and they were sponsored through the generosity of Celestron, distributed through Sheldon and Hammond, the Astrophysics Group, University of Melbourne and CAASTRO, the Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astronomy. We would like to thank them for their continued support of the program and let them know that the recipients of the prizes were quite overwhelmed.

After a wonderful introduction from Dr Tanya Hill (Melbourne Planetarium, Astronomy Curator) and Dr Shane Huntington (TiS founder) the awards were then presented to the prize winners by three distinguished guests; Prof. Rachel Webster (Head of Astrophysics, University of Melbourne and TiS founder), Prof David Jamieson (Head of Physics, University of Melbourne) and Phil Hart (Astrophotographer and multiple David Malin Award winner). It was fantastic that these three gave up their afternoon to help us present the awards and that they represented all facets of the competition and the program, Physics, Astrophysics and Astrophotography. To have all three prominent leaders in these fields present was a wonderful opportunity for everyone in the program.

After the awards were presented and we had a look at all the entries, we sat back in our reclining seats in the Planetarium and were treated to the new live show, Ticket to the Universe, hosted by Simon.

The award winners are below in order that they were presented on the night. I think these images demonstrate the depth and range of skills we have worked on developing over the last two years and I know we are all keen to keep developing these skills so we can take images just like Phil.

Category Awards

Prizes sponsored by CAASTRO (ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics) and Telescopes in Schools

Planetary image

Runner Up

Partial Solar Eclipse 14th Nov. 2012

Kelvin Barraclough

Gisborne Secondary College

Projected images of Partial Solar Eclipse with sunspots

Telescope 305mm MEADE with Solar Filter (40mm eyepiece) projected image and taken with RICOH Caplio R5

Kelvin Barraclough, Gisborne SC

Kelvin Barraclough, Gisborne SC

Planetary image

Winner

Craters and Seas of the Moon

Stephanie Bernard

University of Melbourne

First Quarter Moon

12″ Meade telescope, Canon EOS 700D camera

1/200s exposure time, ISO 200, 400

Mosaic of 14 still images

Stephanie Bernard, University of Melbourne

Stephanie Bernard, University of Melbourne

Landscape

Runner Up

Sunset with Friends

Madeline Sixsmith

Gisborne Secondary College

Taken at Woodend Golf Course with HTC Wildfire S (phone)

Madeline Sixsmith, Gisborne SC

Madeline Sixsmith, Gisborne SC

Landscape

Winner

Looking west crescent Moon & Venus with backdrop of stars

Dale Barry

Gisborne Secondary College

Conjunction of Crescent Moon and Venus at RKB Pheonix Observatory MYRNIONG

Canon 550D, ISO 3200, 13 sec exposure, f/3.5, 18mm

Dale Barry, Gisborne SC

Dale Barry, Gisborne SC

Creative

Winner

Backyard Astronomy

Madhooshi Senarath

Pascoe Vale Girls College

Collage of Night Sky image of backyard and Hubble Space Telescope image

Foreground: Minolta DiMage Z1 15seconds ISO 400 and 1/8 seconds ISO 500, 3 stacked images

Sky: Raw Hubble Data

Madhooshi Senarath, Pascoe Vale Girls College

Madhooshi Senarath, Pascoe Vale Girls College

Deep Sky

Runner Up

Omega Centauri

Bruce Drummond

Suzanne Cory High School

Globular Cluster (NGC5139)

Image taken with Canon 600D mounted on 12″ Meade

ISO 800 8 sec

Bruce Drummond, Suzanne Cory HS

Bruce Drummond, Suzanne Cory HS

Deep Sky

Winner

Look Mum there’s a GALAXY

Louise Ankers

Pascoe Vale Girls College

Sculptor Galaxy (NGC253)

Image taken with 9.25” Celestron Telescope and Canon 700D

Exposure time 30 seconds, ISO 6400

Louise Ankers, Pascoe Vale Girls College

Louise Ankers, Pascoe Vale Girls College

Grand Prizes

Astrophysics Group Student Award

This award is presented to the student who has demonstrated the largest display of technical skills and techniques in the field of Astrophotography

Prize donated by

Astrophysics Group, University of Melbourne

Awarded to

Madhooshi Senarath

of Pascoe Vale Girls College

Madhooshi Senarath accepting her iPad Mini

Madhooshi Senarath accepting her iPad Mini

Celestron Overall Award

This award is presented to the entry that has both satisfied the essence of the competition and displayed the highest level of technical skill.

Prize donated by

Sheldon and Hammond and Celestron

Awarded to

Louise Ankers

of Pascoe Vale Girls College

Louise accepting her Celestron Camera

Louise accepting her Celestron Camera

Astro Comp update

Just a quick post to remind everyone that the Astrophotography Competition closes this Friday 11th October. With a couple of dreary nights ahead, it might be a good time to hunker down and do some last minute processing of those images you have taken lately. Oh and you didn’t hear it from me, but Friday night is looking promising, so you may have the opportunity to do some last last minute photography and get those images to me as soon as you can.

So to get you inspired, a little story I want to share with you. I have just been away for 3 weeks overseas and in that whole time I did not see a single star. I know! Sad huh? A combination of overcast weather and extreme light pollution, certainly makes you appreciate that even though we live in a city, we can still get a decent view of the night sky here in Melbourne. I did have a great holiday though and managed to see plenty of lights and I am quite pleased with this shot. The little I have learnt from my foray into Astrophotography certainly helped with this night-time shot.

Eiffel Tower at night from a moving bus!

Eiffel Tower at night from a moving bus!

With this much artificial light, no wonder we can’t see the stars! One guess as to where I got to spend 3 weeks. Well, someone has to do it…

But that’s not the inspiring bit. I got home to Melbourne late Monday night to stars in the sky which was a welcome sight. Good to see they were still there and it still fascinates me how much they move and change from week to week, let alone over a month. I was home just on sunset last night, the skies were clear and the crescent Moon was sitting right next to Venus under the constellation of Scorpius, so I raced out to my back porch and spent a quick half hour playing around with my DSLR on a very dodgy tripod and came up with this;

Crescent Moon and Venus through the trees.

Crescent Moon and Venus through the trees.

I love the way you can see the earthshine on the dark side of the Moon. Not bad for a quick snap or two. Hope that inspires you to get your camera out pronto.

Image details:

Camera Canon EOS 700D DSLR

Lens 17-85mm

Shutter speed 4 sec

ISO Speed 800

Focal length 50mm

Mode Manual

Post production: Single image. Brightness and contrast settings altered in Digital Photo Professional

If you are interested in knowing more about light pollution, investigating light pollution in your area and even doing something about it so we can see more of the night sky, the International Dark-Sky Association has some great resources.