15th August 2010

Last updated: 15 August 2010

Wales in Space

This week's Science Cafe is devoted to astronomy and space science.

Wales now has its very own space ambassador. Dr. Paul Roche, an astronomer working with Cardiff and Glamorgan Universities, has recently taken on the job of raising the profile of the European Space Agency and the space industry across Wales. Adam talks to Paul about his mission to inspire the next generation of space scientists in Welsh schools and universities.

Adam is also joined by science historian Dr. Allan Chapman. He's been researching the intriguing possibility that the very first astronomical society in Britain was a group of Welshmen who lived near Laugharne in the early seventeenth century. The pioneering English astronomer Thomas Harriot called them as 'The Trefenty Philosophers'. Allan also tells Adam about an extraordinary nineteenth century figure from Bangor called John Jones. He worked in the port in Bangor as a slate counter but he taught himself several languages, mathematics and astronomy as well as building his own telescopes and spectroscope.

There's a report on the field trials for 'Bridget', also known as the ExoMars Rover. This is the robot vehicle which is due to touch down on the surface of the Red Planet in 2018 as part of a joint project between the European Space Agency and NASA. Scientists from Aberystwyth University are involved in developing Bridget's panoramic camera or PanCam and when they tested the Rover on Clarach beach recently reporter Craig Duggan went along to see the little piece of Wales that'll be heading for Mars.

Science Cafe's resident astronomer brings us up to date on space stories making the news. Dr. Edward Gomez from Cardiff University and the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network drops in to tell Adam about recent coronal mass ejections when the sun spat out a huge amount of material and radiation towards Earth. As the material encountered our planet's magnetosphere the result was spectacular northern lights further south than usual. Edward also updates us on recent 3D photos of a supernova (an exploding star). The photos show that at the end of their lives stars can explode assymmetrically, in unexpected directions.


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