Hello from the (surprisingly) sunny North Wales seaside town, Llandudno! I’m here, along with around 500 other astronomers, for the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting, which began on Sunday night and continues until Thursday lunchtime. The conference centre is right on the seafront which is a little distracting.

Sunny Wales

I’m not giving a talk this year (had quite enough of that at last year’s meeting) but I am helping out on both the LOFAR-UK and Herschel & Planck Telescope stands. I was even roped into helping to build the Herschel stand on Sunday afternoon, but I think the end result looks pretty good:

Those are the quarter scale Herschel and Planck Telescope models you can see – the real satellites (the ones currently in space) are four times bigger.

It’s been an interesting meeting so far. However, the wifi can be a little flaky; my connection’s just dropped out and lost the rest of this post! Here instead is what I can remember from it:

1. The mysterious object in the nearby galaxy M82 remains mysterious. It’s looking more likely that it’s something like the microquasars we see in our own galaxy (which was the the likeliest explanation last year) but still more data are needed.

2. A combination of astronomy and history suggests that the supernova Cassiopeia A may have gone off several decades earlier than previously thought – in the early 17th century – and fortuitously coincided with the birth of the future Charles II.

3. A peryton is both a winged yak which casts the shadow of a man and a type of radio interference that can be mistaken for an extragalactic radio burst.

4. Schoolchildren are going to be manning a global network of telescopes for Global Jet Watch – a new project to monitor microquasars in our galaxy.

5. Plants growing on a planet with two dim, red dwarf type, suns could have black leaves so that they can use as much of the light they’d produce as possible for photosynthesis.

Oh, and one more thing I’ve found out. The planned Overwhelmingly Large Telescope (OWL) actually already exists in North Wales, but it’s a lot less impressive than I’d been led to believe:

If this has whetted your appetite for astronomy news keep an eye on the Royal Astronomical Society’s page, or follow the #nam2011 hashtag on twitter for minute-by-minute updates.


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