Low-Cost Astronomy with the Planetary Nebula Spectrograph – Mike Merrifield

15th October 2012

Stars and Galaxies

We’re not just talking about UCAS though, oh no! We’re talking stars and galaxies as well. Well we were getting withdrawal symptoms…

So, what happens when a star dies? It depends on the size of the star, but our own Sun is likely to blow its outer layers off and form a planetary nebula. You say you don’t know what one is? You’ve probably seen a picture of one before, a famous one is the crab nebula shown below.

Crab Nebula

Mike doesn’t study such pretty nebulas though, the ones he looks at are much further away and appear as green blobs. This is because when a star reaches the end of its life it only really emits green light in its spectrum. Our own Sun actually peaks in the green, but it appears more yellow than anything due to the way our eyes work.

The spectrum of light can be easily seen by yourself with just a CD. You’ve probably done it by accident before! Just reflect the light onto a handy near by wall and you’ll see something like this:CD Spectrum

Q&A

Square Galaxy
Mike was asked if there are any odd shapes of galaxies and came up with this, a square galaxy! Find out more here: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21617-astrophile-square-galaxy-is-a-rebel.html

Prof. Mike Merrifield joined Carl and George in the stuidos!

Scientists still aren’t really sure what causes this bizarre phenomenon, but this particular example was spotted 70 million light years from Earth.

Science in the News

Felix Baumgartner skydives from space. Watch the video here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19947159
Planet made from diamonds? Count me in! http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2216196/Scientists-discover-massive-planet-diamonds-twice-size-Earth.html
Giant eye washes up – http://www.inquisitr.com/364009/giant-eyeball-mystery-solved-swordfish-eye-washes-up-on-florida-beach/
Are we in the Matrix? http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2011/07/-a-matrix-universe-are-we-living-in-a-vast-computer-simulation.html