Astronomy in the garden wins RHS prize

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download


  • Society NewS

    A&G October 2007 Vol. 48 5.37

    Norman Lockyer Fellow writesThe next Norman Lockyer Fellow will be Mark Swinbank, currently a PPARC fellow working in the Insti-tute of Computational Cosmology at the University of Durham.

    Mark writes: I work on high-z gal-axies and galaxy formation. One of my main research areas is using gal-axy clusters as natural telescopes to magnify the images of distant galaxies that happen to lie behind them. This technique allows us to observe young galaxies in a level of detail that would otherwise be impossible without the increased light grasp of 30 m or even 50 m telescopes.

    In the past three years weve really taken the lead with this project (although we are part of a large col-laboration which includes Durham, Caltech, Birmingham and Marseille), and have demonstrated the power of this technique in several papers. These lensed galaxies span a redshift range from z = 0.4 all the way up to z = 5, so weve made incredibly detailed stud-ies of galaxies when the universe was less than 10% of its current age.

    Recently we have been success-ful in securing HST programmes to continue this research by targeting more than 100 clusters in the Massive Cluster Survey (MACS). This survey is turning up new and spectacular examples of gravitational lenses that

    are ideal for this programme, vastly improving the number (and variety) of targets. One of the aims of the NL fellowship is to continue the research, applying the same techniques to a much larger sample of galaxies.

    My other main area of research is understanding the dark side of gal-axy formation, using sensitive sub-mm surveys to provide access to redshifted far-infrared emission from very dusty, active galaxies in the distant universe. These galaxies are usually extremely faint in optical/near-IR wavebands, because the rest-frame UV radiation is absorbed and reprocessed by dust particles that are heated and re-emit at longer wavelengths as thermal radiation. Surveys have shown that nearly half of the energy budget of the universe occurred in these highly obscured sources, and my work has concentrated on probing the proper-ties of these galaxies.

    Using Keck/Gemini/VLT/UKIRT, I have shown that these galaxies have individual star-formation rates of hun-

    dreds to thousands of solar masses per year, enough to make a very massive galaxy in just a few 100 Myr. Again, this is a very active area of research, and with facilities such as SCUBA2 and ALMA coming online in the next couple of years, this research will form a large part of my fellowship.

    Im married to Julie, with a baby boy called Andrew and we live in a village just outside Durham. My family are farmers nearby so I tend to spend my spare time working there at busy times. When Im not trying to catch up on sleep, or working at the farm, I play football, tennis and squash, as well as doing a bit of run-ning and climbing mountains.

    Trotta will give Kelvin LectureThe current Norman Lockyer Fel-low, Roberto Trotta, was selected to give the British Association for the Advancement of Sciences 2007 Lord Kelvin Lecture in York in September in recognition of his work in science communication.

    Dr Trotta is based at the Univer-sity of Oxford where he carries out research into cosmology, including the properties of dark energy and dark matter and the large-scale structure of the universe. His lecture Does the Universe Need Humankind? The Strange Case of Intelligent Observers in the Cosmos examines exactly what

    makes the universe habitable and asks whether our universe is unique or just part of a much larger multiverse.

    Morison chosen as Gresham Prof. Ian Morison of the University of Man-chester has been appointed Gresham Professor of Astronomy, and will bring to the role that of enhancing public understanding of the science his love for and long involvement with the amateur astronomy com-munity as well as his work in radio astronomy at Jodrell Bank. He will give lectures on a wide range of astro-nomical topics and plans an annual Gresham Astronomy Weekend at a dark skies location in March, as well as a trip to China for the total eclipse of the Sun in 2008.

    Long service for SecretaryAt the July 2007 General Assembly of the International Society on Gen-eral Relativity and Gravitation, Prof. Malcolm MacCallum of the School of Mathematical Sciences, Queen Mary, University of London, was elected for a further three-year term as its Secre-tary. At the end of this term of office he will have been in that post for 15 years a remarkable record of service to science.

    AppoiNtmeNtS ANd AwArdS

    Mark Swinbank and Andrew (left) on a recent holiday in Scotland.

    A&G August 2007 Vol. 48 4.31

    In his Address for 2006, RAS President Michael Rowan-Robinson examines the development of the terahertz waveband: submillimetre and far-infrared astronomy.

    In March 2006 the UK Treasury released an important strategy document about science, which among other things proposed the merger of PPARC and CCLRC. I was intrigued to find astronomy singled out for its good work in technology transfer in the area of terahertz imag-ing. I didnt really know what this meant but it turns out to be a new technology that emerged in the 1990s used both in medicine and in counter-terrorism. It took me a while to realize that this was a technological fallout from what we usually call far-infrared and submillimetre astronomy.

    There are a wide range of definitions of the terahertz band, but I shall adopt the rather broad definition of 0.110THz, or 30m to 3mm. The mid-infrared is generally 330m, so my defini-tion encompasses the far infrared quite neatly. The boundary between far infrared and sub-millimetre is a bit hazy, somewhere between 100 and 300m. Strictly the submillimetre should end at 1mm, but in the early days of work in the

    13mm window we used to call it submillimetre astronomy because the observing techniques were essentially, well, terahertz techniques.

    The terahertz band has opened up for astron-omy in my professional lifetime and I have been lucky enough to have been involved in many of the discoveries of this highly significant part of the electromagnetic spectrum. When I started to prepare this lecture I imagined that it would be mainly about the Spitzer Space Telescope, but I gradually realized how significant and under-rated the early work of the 1970s was and that if you compile a list of, say, the 10 great discover-ies of this waveband then an astonishingly high proportion of them were in fact made with the IRAS satellite.

    Frank LowThe father of terahertz astronomy was undoubt-edly Frank Low (figure 2), who in 1961 invented the gallium-doped germanium bolometer and the Low dewar. In 1965 he and Johnson meas-ured the 10m flux from the recently discovered quasars 3C273 and in 1967 he and Kleinmann announced the discovery of a new infrared nebula in Orion (at 22m). Around this time he began to work at genuinely far-infrared wave-lengths using a 12 inch telescope aboard a Lear executive jet. By 1968 he and Tucker were dis-cussing the far-infrared background radiation

    Terahertz astronomy, the astronomy of the 30 micron to 3 millimetre waveband, was opened up by Frank Low and others in the 1960s and UK groups were among the first participants. Many of the key discoveries in terahertz continuum astronomy were made using the IRAS satellite, launched in 1983. Here I review some of the key stages and people in the development of this field, which has had unexpected technological fallout in medical and security imaging.


    Terahertz surveysrowAn-robinson: Presidential address

    1: The Sombrero galaxy as seen by the Spitzer Space Telescope, a terahertz astronomy observatory.

    2: Frank Low, pioneer of terahertz astronomy.

    Astronomy & Geophysics is published by the Royal Astronomical Society. It is a journal for the publication of serious scientific reviews and news of interest to a broad range of astronomers and geophysicists.

    We are looking for lively, topical summaries of active research areas, rather than papers presenting original ideas, giving readers a chance to keep up with developments in research fields outside their own. The Editor expects such articles to be around 6000 words, plus figures, to make around six published pages. You should introduce material at a level comprehensible to a graduate student, but should not limit discussion to this level. The Editor welcomes lively writing, and individual styles, as well as suggestions for illustrations, but will reject unsuitable material.

    Submission through Manuscript CentralAuthors should note that A&G now uses the Manuscript Central submission mechanism, in common with the other Society publications. Go to and follow the instructions. Authors whose papers have been commissioned by the Editor will find details at the MC site. We use Word

    on Apple Macintosh. Other word processor files, TeX and LaTeX are also acceptable. Illustrations and figures are welcome, although not essential. We prefer a few high-quality illustrations to many poor ones. Suggestions for cover images are always welcome. The Editor has discretion over which illustrations to use: the criteria are content, quality and suitability. Authors in any doubt should consult the Editor. Good quality prints or transparencies are suitable, as are high-resolution electronic images, preferably in tif or ps format. As a general rule, it is both more efficient and more satisfactory to send A&G a good-quality print than for authors to spend time producing poor-quality electronic images. The edited text is sent to authors for approval as page proofs either by fax or as a pdf; corrections

    and changes must be returned promptly to meet production deadlines.

    CopyrightAuthors are responsible for obtaining and, if necessary, paying for permission from the copyright holder to repro-duce illustrations that they use, if they do not hold the copyright themselves. Submis-sion implies the manuscript has not been previously pub-lished nor is currently submit-ted for publication elsewhere. References follow the style of Monthly Notices of the RAS. Authors must ensure that their references are correct.

    ContactContact the Editor, Dr Sue Bowler, Astronomy & Geophysics, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK. Email:

    NoteS for AuthorS SubmittiNg to A&G

  • Society NewS

    5.38 A&G October 2007 Vol. 48

    The Spaced Out garden, sponsored by the RAS, won a Gold Medal from the Royal Horticultural Society at the Tatton Park Garden Show in August. It also provided a showcase for a model of the Philae Lander, part of ESAs Rosetta mission to comet 67 P/Churyumov-Gerasi-menko and an unusual occasion for astronomy outreach. The RHS Tatton Park Flower Show is a showcase for gardening, comprising specially built gardens of various sizes and displays from nurseries and spe-cialist growers. The Gold Medal is the highest award and recognizes innova-tive design and horticultural skill.

    The Spaced Out garden stood out because of its Plexiglas canopy, glow-ing in the sunshine red to indicate the significant role of Soviet Russia in general and Sputnik in particular. The canopy sits above a circular granite seating area, surrounded by waving grasses and flowers, themselves sur-rounded by grass and clipped box bushes. Underlying the horticultural skill in the garden was a well-thought-out science story, illustrating our posi-tion as observers of the universe and celebrating the 50 years since signals from Sputnik marked the start of the Space Age.

    Designers Ann Picot and Pasquale Pascucci incorporated ideas from astronomy into the design from the start, and have made a lively and pleasant garden that also offers opportunities for exploring some of the fundamentals of science, such as light, colour and the movement of the Sun. For me this was a chance to create a garden with two different dimensions, looking up and looking through, giving a universal perspec-tive in a very small space, said Picot. I like the constant change in it, both on a daily basis and through seasonal changes. Pascucci also enjoyed set-ting a challenge: Its up to the viewer to observe, and become curious and discover.

    Those sitting in the centre of the gar-den are like observers on Earth: they can see, but what they see depends on where and how they look. The variable height and thickness of the vegetation surrounding the seating represents the atmosphere: the view is clearer in some directions than in others, and in paces obscure, just as the atmosphere varies. Wind moves the plants and hides or reveals what lies beyond, for example. Beyond the atmosphere we can see interesting objects satellites indicated by posts topped with red Plexiglas, and distant astronomical objects represented by the varied box balls. Even the turf is significant, fine grade grass in the centre changing to rough turf on the

    outskirts, mimicking levels of noise in observations. In addition, anyone at the centre of the garden sees the pink light cast by the canopy, moving as the Sun moves or goes behind a cloud, and cannot fail to appreciate its strik-ing effect, turning white plants purple, for example.

    The garden and science display cer-tainly attracted attention at the show. People stopped to have a close look and often wandered over to see the ESA display and talk to the scientists about the project. Nigel Mason of Spaced Out designed a poster high-lighting UK contributions to space, which was very popular. Researchers from MSSL, the Open University, the University of Manchester and others spent their time talking about the projects and the UKs role in space projects, and handed out posters, leaflets and information to a steady stream of curious visitors.

    The garden was conceived by Spaced Out and is sponsored by Edexcel, BBC Sky at Night magazine, the RAS, the Planetary and Space Sci-ences Research Institute at the Open University, International Heliophysi-cal Year, All Turf Ltd, Tobermore Concrete Product Ltd and William Hulmes Grammar School. The designers hope that the garden can be re-established permanently in an environment where it could be used for education: it is for sale and any interested purchasers with sensible offers over 15 000 should contact Spaced Out at the address below.

    Astronomy in the garden wins RHS prize

    Designer Ann Picot and Spaced Outs Nigel Mason in the Gold Medal-winning astronomical garden at Tatton Park.

    Astronomical objects (balls of box) seen against background noise (rough turf).

  • Society NewS

    A&G October 2007 Vol. 48 5.39

    Society NewS

    RAS Newspaper Comp The results of the 2007 competition for schoolchildren to produce newspaper pages on the theme of Space 2057 are announced on the RAS web pages. This years competition has continued the increase in entries which last years Alien Life Found! title generated. The theme of the 2008 competition has yet to be decided, although it may relate to International Heliophysical Year or International Polar Year; further suggestions are welcome. Please contact

    Burlington HouseThe refurbishment of the Societys apartments in Burlington House is proceeding well and on schedule and it is anticipated that meetings will resume there in December. However, Fellows should be aware that this situation may change and should check the website for announcements.

    NewS iN brief


    &Recommend to your librarian

    If your library had a subscription, colleagues and students could enjoy A&G too.

    Library Recommendation Form

    To: Acquisition Librarian

    I recommend the library subscribe to A&G (ISSN 1366-8781)






    News aNd Reviews iNastRoNomy & GeophysicsFebruary 2007 Vol. 48 Issue 1

    Gravitational wavesMolecules and icesCore collapse supernovaeCosmoclimatology: a new approach?

    As part of its Education Pro-gramme, writes Andrew Morrison, the RAS is setting up a database of free resources to support teach-ers in delivering the astronomy, space and geophysics sections of the school curriculum. All resources listed will have been reviewed by members of the RAS Education Committee and Educa-tional Focus Group (EFG) and kite marked as being both astronomically correct and educationally valuable. The project was launched at a meeting of the EFG in early April and an ini-tial list of possible resources has been

    drawn up and is being reviewed. In parallel with this, the database is being designed so that users will be able to search for resources under a wide vari-ety of headings: topic, specification, age group, type of resource etc.

    The aim is to identify the best out of the myriad of resources available on the web and elsewhere, so that the RAS becomes the first stop for anyone looking for resources in these areas. The new database will become avail-able in the autumn of 2007 and will be launched at the annual ASE meeting in Liverpool as part of the RAS Astron-omy Day on Friday 4 January 2008.

    RAS kite-marks free resources

    New web pages for schools need help

    New FellowsThe following were elected to Fellowship of the RAS on 1 August 2007:Abdulaziz Alareedh, Bristol.Deanna Amos, Laindon, Essex.Dr David Asher, Armagh Observatory.Dr Mina Ashrafi, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Southampton.Stephen Ashton, Southport, Merseyside.Charlotte Beldon, Lansdown, Bath.Dr Yulia Bogdanova, MSSL, University College London. Joseph Caruana, Gozo, Malta.Dr Kit Chan, Dept of Mathematics, The University of Hong Kong.Emily Down, Astrophysics, University of Oxford.Barbara Ferreira, Trinity College, Cambridge.Colin Forsyth, Leicester.Adrian Garner, Walton on Thames, Surrey.Alex Golovin, Zaporozhskaja, Ukraine.Dr Eoghan Griffin, Atmospheric Physics Lab, University College London.Paul Haley, Clehonger, Hereford.Imran Hayat, Edinburgh.Adrian Herod, Congleton, Cheshire.Ryan Laird, Skegness, Lincs.

    Dr Giovanni Miniutti, Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge.Philip Noack, Munich, Germany.Mina Panahi, Wilmslow, Cheshire.Ruth Pearson, London.Dr Balazs Pinter, Institute of Maths & Physical Science, The University of AberystwythValerio Ribeiro, Liverpool.Philip Rosenberg, Wolverton, Milton Keynes.Prof. Bangalore Sathyaprakash, School of Physics & Astronomy, Cardiff University.Dr Antonio Schettino, Camerino, Italy.Dr Andrew Senior, Dept of Communication Systems, Lancaster University.Sarah Shannon, St Annes College, Oxford University.Sotira Trifourki, Blackley, Manchester.Dr David Tsiklauri, Institute for Materials Research, University of Salford.Dr Philip Uttley, School of Physics & Astronomy, University of Southampton.Simon Weston, Hatfield, Hertfordshire.Hugh Wheelwright, Bridlington, East Yorkshire.Daniel Whiter, School of Physics & Astronomy, University of Southampton.Emily Winterburn, Croydon.

    Julien King, Chair of the RAS Edu-cation Committee, brings news of RAS resources for schools and a request for help.Through the Education Commit-tee, the RAS has identified two key astrophysical topics that would ben-efit from an authoritative resource to support teaching: cosmology and stellar evolution. Both of these top-ics are well represented in all the new GCSE Science and AS/A2 Physics syl-

    labi. These titles will complement the existing range of RAS leaflets but will be designed as a set of web pages.

    In addition, the RAS Heritage Group has been working on a leaflet covering the astronomical significance of the Stonehenge monument. In collabora-tion with the Chair of the Heritage Group, Clive Ruggles, the Education Committee has identified this fasci-nating monument as a potentially excellent illustration of the How

    Science Works theme, now a part of GCSE Science. A working title of The Mystery of Stonehenge has been produced as the proposed web pages would introduce students to the vari-ous theories of the monuments origins and how astronomical information can be used to decide between them.

    Can you help? It would be very useful to receive feedback on draft versions of these leaflets/web pages. Please email

    Planning for dark skiesThe RAS President wants dark skies to be part of any changes to plan-ning permission laws in the UK. Michael Rowan-Robinson has added the Societys support to a statement prepared by RAS Fellow Martin Mor-gan-Taylor. The submission advocates a more coordinated approach that includes dark skies protection in plan-ning decisions, given the importance of the sky to education and public engagement with astronomy. _content&task=view&id=1270&Itemid=1