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Stargazing LIVE: More secrets to be uncovered

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Mark Thompson Mark Thompson | 14:48 UK time, Monday, 16 January 2012

I have been fascinated by the night sky ever since I was a child.

I remember seeing Saturn through a telescope for the first time when I was about 10 years old, and the sight was nothing short of magical.

Seeing Saturn, rings and all, hovering against the velvet black sky ignited a fire in me that has been raging ever since.

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Professor Brian Cox: Stargazing LIVE series two trailer

One of the key things that has helped maintain this passion is that no matter how much we learn about the Universe, there will always be more secrets to be uncovered.

It's been fantastic to be the astronomer on Stargazing LIVE, to work with Dara O'Briain and Brian Cox along with an incredible crew.

In the last series this involved me teaching astronomy to Jonathan Ross in his back garden, explaining how to take astronomical photographs and showing people the wonders of the night sky live on national TV.

It's been manic in the run up to this second series. Already we have two short film sequences complete, one which is a beginner's guide to telescopes and binoculars and another which is about light pollution.

Trying to get people to think about the amount of excess light they are using is one of the big themes of the series.

We want to demonstrate that even the smallest places create a heck of a lot of light, so I'm now on my way to Dulverton in Somerset to prepare for this year's biggest challenge - on the third night I will be attempting to get all the lights of the town simultaneously turned off live on air!

I'm pretty nervous about this as it relies entirely on people responding positively and agreeing to join in. It's all out of my hands when it comes to the show regardless of how much work we put in campaigning over the next two days.

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Stargazing series one: Jonathan meets Jupiter

There are loads of other great things coming up in the new series too and we want you to get involved.

You can send in your pictures and questions to the team and we will try to answer as many as possible in the follow-on show Stargazing LIVE: Back To Earth which happens straight after Stargazing LIVE.

There are also hundreds of events up and down the country for you to go along to.

We've also got some great new graphics plus an updated star and moon guide and loads of other resources downloadable from the website to show you what you can look for in the skies over the UK during January so you can get out and stargaze for yourselves.

Last year's show was great, even my 'missed meteor moment' was hilarious but we have loads of bigger and better things planned for this year and frankly, I can't wait for the first show.

Mark Thompson is the astronomer on Stargazing LIVE.

Series two of Stargazing LIVE begins on Monday, 16 January at 8.30pm on BBC Two and BBC HD. For further programme times, please see the upcoming epsiodes page.

On Thursday, 19 January at 2pm, Professor Brian Cox will present a live, interactive lesson from Jodrell Bank in collaboration with The Big Bang Fair. All UK schools can join in on the BBC red button.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    whilst we find stargazing live a great programme, is it to become yet another programme that invites the minor celebrity whom has a little interest and next to no knowledge in astronomy. There would be thousands of amatuer astronomers age 5-90 who could be invited and would get more out of it, another good programme on the way to ruin

  • Comment number 3.

    Thank you so much for returning to our screens. Makes the cold nights easier. I may have been seeing things, but in the last outside segment, at the very end, in the bottom left, was there another shooting star? Last year when it happened, I thought i would never see it again. Please check it out.

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi, I really enjoyed the show last night, great to see such enthusiasm for the subject. Not sure who Paula above means when she says 'minor celebrity whom has a little interest and next to no knowledge in astronomy' , but I think Dara injects some humour into the proceeedings (the comment 'if we're wrong about this, please email us from the future' showed real wit!), as well as showing a genuinely open mind.

    One comment I would make about last night's show however is that I was extremely surprised at the lack of respect shown to Captain Eugene Cernan in his interview. He was only allocated about 30 seconds for his interview and was cut off in the middle of what was shaping up to be a profound musing on his time on the moon. As the only person on a show purporting to focus on the moon who had actually BEEN there, I found this off-putting and disingenuous.

    I believe one of the main reasons that kids decide not to pursue scientific careers is the lack of respect shown to scientists and science by popular media and culture and this should be recitified by otherwise exemplary programmes such as Stargazing LIVE.

    my 2c.

  • Comment number 5.

    Dara's wish for a message from the future seemed to have been granted. The photo shown of the Andromeda Galaxy was dated 22/11/12!

  • Comment number 6.

    Really enjoyed the show last night. I went out afterwards with my iPad and a star mapping app. The skys above Reading, Berks were crystal clear and you could easily see Jupiter, Mars, betelguese, Gemini, Taurus, Seven sisters (tiny constellation!), Orion, auriga, ursa major etc etc, absolutely fantastic, after about 10 mins, when my eyes had got adjusted to the light the sky was amazing. Even saw a shooting star to boot...

  • Comment number 7.

    We agree with Paula - another decent programme being spoilt by "Extras" who dont really know the subject. Why not just leave an expert to both present and supply the expert knowledge, he is good enough. Sid & Sue

  • Comment number 8.

    We were very disappointed with this programme, as you showed hardly any STARS only people talking. Then we might get a little flash of some stars and off you are again talking with each other. While it was very interesting to hear what Brian Cox had to say of the moon for example, we did not see enough of the constellations etc.
    Let us at least GAZE, before you flash onto something more important. Angelika & Roy

  • Comment number 9.

    I'm sure there are people who find Dara O'Briain entertaining but his main role here seems to be to get in the way. There is plenty of trivia on TV already, can we have a lot less Dara and more science please.

  • Comment number 10.

    Brian Cox one of the most genuinely interesting people to appear on tv in the last decade. He tells us things we really want to know about. He also has a great sense of humour and is good on tv. Why is Dara O'Braiain there? He doesn't let Brian Cox finish his sentences, he talks over him, he doesn't listen, he's just waiting for his turn to speak. It is incredibly irritating, and patronising to the viewing public if he is there because you think he'll popularise the programme. We are already all hooked on Brian Cox. Dara just spoils it for us. Do us a favour - let the prof speak. How often does an opportunity like this come around?

  • Comment number 11.

    Please get rid of Dara.. He was very rude to the Apollo Captain last night, cutting him off mid-sentence. Outrageous! Dara interupts all the time and loves the sound of his own voice which really spoils the show for me. He is funny occasionally, but he seems to be taking over in this series and something needs to be done about it!!

  • Comment number 12.

    What I meant was Dara cramps Brian's style, and makes him seem less than he is, and that is a very great shame but there is a solution!

  • Comment number 13.

    The programme is called "Stargazing" so WHY AREN'T WE GAZING AT ANY STARS? We keep "going outside" to the bloke in the field with a lot of people in the background looking at stars so why can't we have a look at what they're looking at? No doubt Liz Bonnin has been sent to South Africa at the license fee payers expense so why is standing in front of a huge telescope that we are not getting a look down? LET'S HAVE A LOOK!!! It's the most frustrating programme I've had the misfortune to watch for a very long time. All we are getting is blokes talking so here's a radical thought SHOW US SOME STARS PLEASE.

  • Comment number 14.

    This is the best TV I have seen for decades. It is entertaining informative and inspirational.

    More and more please.

    P.S. Who is that oik who stands around with his hands in his pockets? He looks to be a candidate for a black hole.

  • Comment number 15.

    It was a fantastic program, love Brian Cox, really interesting... only problem is the distracting personality of O Dara, he's a bit of a passenger really and has nothing interesting to add and detracts from the real enjoyment of the program by butting in all the time on an endless quest for attention. There is zero chemistry between these two, he cuts off a really interesting interview by Captain Eugene Cernan and is more than capable of presenting.

    There is no chemistry, O'Dara speaks way too fast and swallows his words, sure he's a lovely bloke... but stand up and astronomy just don't mix!

    Please give it over to Cox to present!!

  • Comment number 16.

    Incredible how the Beeb have managed to mess this up - what wasted opportunities, how massively frustrating. Rare brilliantly clear nights, boots & coats on waiting to go outside and, with the Beeb's guidance, discover the stars we don't usually see and don't know names of. What does the Beeb do? Start by banging on for 30 mins with the one thing we're all familiar with - the moon - which didn't even rise till hours later!! Tides, history of moon landings, etc etc - yes yes we know all that, what about doing something actually live as billed, and remotely exciting, whilst the kids are still up and before the rest of us lost interest? Significant that on both nights, the most exciting part was the last 10 mins of the studio follow-up, when FINALLY we got what we expected to start with - pointers of what and where to view now - TOO LITTLE and TOO LATE, esp for the kids.

    Oh, and the computerised time-line of the origins of the universe was completely wrecked by stopping it every few seconds for explanations which actually completely got in the way of any understanding of it ...

  • Comment number 17.

    Why were there young children in the audience for the discussion part last night, Tuesday? At one point the young girl behind "Lucy" was seen yawning. It is past the 9pm Watershed and some of the comments were inappropriate with young children present such as Aliens probing human bodies and Dara's comment about not going to the toilet. Also, had everyone there been CRB checked? I know as a scout leader I have to be to interact with young people as Brian Cox was seen doing.

  • Comment number 18.

    Dear GOD mockers, you sit there and deny the existence of the Great Lord above, and yet You! expect us to believe in things we can't see! explain please? or is it dark matters fault. See you in another dimension,

    P.S How can you time travel when the future dosn't exist and the past is dead? would this mean that corpse's would rise from there graves (sound familiar o ye of little faith).

  • Comment number 19.

    message for scout leader.. I would take a geuss that the children were with their parents and is it not the parents responabilty to what the child hears/sees.

    There would be no need for CRB checks as the presenters were Not working with children . if you are unsure check the Directgov, it explains who needs to be CRB checked.

    I do agree with many of the above post re-Dara .I did menton in my first post my frustration of minor celebritys taking part.

  • Comment number 20.

    I don't get it? Why on earth is the "comedian" Dara O'Briain hosting this programme? The OBVIOUS choice is Brian May!
    Typical BBC oversight

  • Comment number 21.

    Is Dara O'Briain paid by words per minute? It was hard enough trying to follow the concepts of Dark Matter and Black Holes, without having to try to understand what he was saying. I agree with all the previous comments that suggested he shouldn't be on that show. Brian Cox has presented other programmes on his own before and did a great job.

  • Comment number 22.

    I watched a bit but was quite shocked by Cox's arrogant dismissal of "ITV viewers" with the implication they were stupid conspiracy theorists. This was just after he gave a completely incorrect answer to the question of why the US flag was fluttering on the moon!

    (Yes we could all see there was a wire in it but that was not the question and does not explain the fluttering motion. Surely the real answer has to do with a very slow rate of energy dissipation due to the lack of air friction?)

  • Comment number 23.

    I was interested to watch Stargazing Live and I like the fact that there is a studio 'discussion' element to the overall format. However, it did deflate my sense of anticipation that this section of the show seemed to take some obvious cues with reference to its format from other shows, particularly Top Gear. Specifically, I mean the way the audience is congregated, standing rather than sitting around the hosts and guests; the tendency to adopt an overtly convivial style of presentation and the use of a 'wall' onto which photos are stuck. Each episode has had a main subject i.e. The Moon and then Black Holes. However, the questioning during the discussion seems to have quite a random quality. I often found The Sky At Night, one of Stargazing's predecessors, on the other hand to be more informatively sustained and sustaining, with lines of enquiry and explanation more closely followed through and points of conclusion clearly made. In contrast, Stargazing Live is, in my opinion, sacrificing some of that substance in favour of 'coolness' and viewer friendliness. But, I guess this is 2012!

  • Comment number 24.

    Just wanted to add my support for those who find the BBC's belief, that we can only copy with serious science if it's mediated through a celeb or comic, really sad. I haven't watched Starwatch because I don't like Dara O'Briain, and that's being polite about it. I can't be the only one - and Brian Cox has built up such a devoted TV following that I really don't understand why he can't anchor the show on his own, or with other scientists - he can't be the only TV-friendly astronomer in the country! A real missed opportunity - I'd really have liked to watch this and learn something.

  • Comment number 25.

    It the universe is infinite or there is a quilted multiverse does that mean there is another me out there
    that has read and watched everything I have and is doing what I am doing right now ? If this is true and I write “HELLO” knowing the other me is reading this as he types this, have I just communicated to the other me in another universe...

  • Comment number 26.

    I like Dara O'Briain and Brian Cox so the programs good for me ...

  • Comment number 27.

    This show has the possibility of being absolutely fascinating if just left to the scientist Brian Cox. What is irritating is the underlying compettion between the two presenters - Dara and Brian - sometimes they manage to veil it and it works fine and others you can visibly see the competition. Why does it need Dara O'Briain at all. He is fine and very likeable - but not needed on this show please - leave Brian to it - he is an entertaining, enthusiastic and knowleagable presenter and quite capable of hosting this programme alone so that he is not constantly interrupted by Dara and sometimes taken off track.

  • Comment number 28.

    Do you find astronomical distances very depressing give that our current spacecraft are not much more than technically advanced fireworks.

  • Comment number 29.

    A great 3 nights of entertaining Stargazing! Don't listen to the purists who want to dull down the Wonders of the Universe by removing the fun and humor. Science and humor; its a winning learning combination like Brian and Dara! I like the idea Dara's made a God of someone working in IT. Funny to think if THAT was the selection process for our God: (Big booming voice: "Congratulations "Earth" from IT, you have found an (insert other world name here) type planet, you will be their God. And they will pray and war and create in your name". Our God, a deity from IT. Puts things in perspective doesn't it, which is what astronomy does so well.

    Great work all the team. You're making astronomy accessible to all, even if our cities aren't! (And I love the casual Back to Earth free for all discussion-who say's astronomy shouldn't be fun!) See you next year for more of the same!

  • Comment number 30.

    What an amazing show really put together well and I think Dara did a fantastic job as well as professor Brian of course. Obviously previous guys who have left comments know what real entertainment is!!! Big well done again can't wait for the next one

  • Comment number 31.

    There are so few programes about astronomy on tv, so even though stargazing live is by no means perfect, it is still informative and entertaining

  • Comment number 32.

    Might be a dumb q, but... I'm aware they said a few years ago they said that the expansion rate of the universe is increasing-which is where the whole dark matter thing came in, now i've just read on todays bbc science and nature page that 'At the greatest distances, the universe's expansion is accelerating', tell me they've allowed for the fact that information from the farthest away in the universe is the oldest, and you would expect the universe to have been expanding faster then....

  • Comment number 33.

    Thanks for the excellent programmes. For those of you interested in the relative size of the solar system, there is an easy walk in St Luc, Valais, Switzerland where all the planets are set out as models with the correct dimensions and then spread over the mountainside at their relative distances. It takes 2 hours to complete the walk but as well as superb views there is lots of information about the planets.
    It is called the Walk of the planets and the webpage is [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 34.

    I agree with many of the comments about Dara being more of a hinderance than a help. Brian Cox is so good at explaining things it is a pity that he is interrupted so many times.

  • Comment number 35.

    We were watching as a family, so there was a good age spread, and we also have to agree with a number of comments already posted. Dara O'Briain comes across as someone who is interested in astronomy, knows quite a bit about it and he works well with Prof. Brian Cox. BUT we all had the same problem understanding what he was saying most of the time and when he kept speaking over Brian or any other guest...well.
    I have been lucky enough to have worked around the UK and NI, so have become 'used' to regional accents, but it was the slightly 'slurred' way in which
    Mr O'Briain spoke that made it at times very hard to understand what he was saying.
    We have now had Jonathan Ross and Dara O'Briain taking part in the wonderful 'Stargazing Live' shows, who will it be next year?
    Could I also suggest that there is a summer show as well. The skies may be lighter longer but there are still many things to see. How many people saw the magnificent display of Noctilucent clouds last year?

  • Comment number 36.

    This program is excellent. we need more of this kind of thing. it's such a shame its only once per year.

  • Comment number 37.

    Love the series and hope there are plans to make it a more regular thing.
    A few seem to be saying they don't like Dara on the programme and want you to get rid of him. Please don't listen to them, he's great on the show and is doing a great job presenting. Brian would struggle on his own if you got rid of Dara and the show would suffer as a result.

  • Comment number 38.

    I love this show and have little sympathy for the serious astronomers who knock it. Seems to me that they don't want their beloved subject to be opened up to the curious but less-informed. Encourage your new generation of geeks, you were ignorant once :)

    My suggestions for next year - more skies and less studio, keep Dara O'Briain and if you get a chance to interview a true legend PLEASE tape it in advance and show a full filmed interview. See you all next year, unless Brian Cox is fighting extradition charges for phone-stalking Captain Cernan... :)

  • Comment number 39.

    Does the moon really rotate about "its axis" in order to show the same face to the Earth? (Mondays Stargazing Live)
    Think of a fairground roundabout with a centre (the Earth) about which rotates a platform around the edge of which are non rotatable poles supporting the roof. If one of these poles was decorated with a model of the moon with the pole forming its axis this would always present the same face to the centre but could not rotate about that axis. Though it does rotate about the centre's axis. Help please?

  • Comment number 40.

    To thomasbaker. I think that if you use your roundabout model, but look down on it from say, a balcony, then as it rotates, all the poles indeed with go round with the main structure. As they are part of this structure and connected to it then yes the same 'face' of the pole will face towards the middle. But the Moon is not connected to the Earth and if the Moon did not rotate as it does, then we would see a slightly different face of the Moon each night.

    Try this example to see how it works.

    Take a small bite out of an apple (this will be a point of reference) and hold this apple from below at arms length. Now slowly rotate yourself and watch the apple, the same face of the apple point to you. But you are connected.

    Now get someone to hold the same apple by the stalk and ask them to move it around you. You will see the whole surface of the apple on each rotation. But if they twist the apple stalk by one rotation whilst they move it around you, the bite mark will remain in the same location.

    Hope that helps and I hope I got it right.

  • Comment number 41.

    To Darkskies. Many thanks for your help with my puzzle, but I am afraid I am still confused.
    Going back to my roundabout I could easily construct it so the centre and the structure going round it are separate pieces and if I looked down from the balcony I would certainly see the outer rotating about the centre but I would not see the individual poles rotating about their axies any more than I would see any other part of it rotating about itself. Indeed if I wanted to see the pole which I have made the axis of my moon rotate I would fit it with a motor. Unfortunately we would then see different faces of my moon from my central Earth.

    Looking down at our planet and its satelite from say the sun would I think show a similar situation to your view from the balcony with the moon rotating about the Earth's axis rather than its own.

    Help please.

  • Comment number 42.

    Thomas Baker is puzzling over the Moon's rotation.

    The reference frame that we use when talking about the Solar System uses the Sun and background stars as reference points. In this frame, the Moon is rotating once on its axis as it completes each orbit of Earth i.e. once per lunar month (about 28 days). This keeps the same side facing towards the Earth. If the Moon was not rotating then each side would be facing the Sun for about 6 Earth Months. A non-rotating Moon would have a Lunar day of one Earth year. We would have same phases of the Moon each month but over a year we would see the entire surface of the Moon. However, this does not happen we always seem the same side.

    When people refer to the "dark side of the Moon" this is a fallacy. What they mean is the far side of the Moon which we never see. The far side, like the near side, because of its rotation has light periods lasting 14 Earth days together with dark periods of 14 Earth days. If we add the light and dark times together we get 28 Earth days which is the length of one Lunar day. When the near side is on the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth it is fully lit i.e. full Moon. When the Moon is between us and the Sun only the far side is lit the visible side (near side) is unlit. So there is no visible Moon we call this New Moon.

    There is frame of reference with a non-rotating Moon but you have have to say that in this frame the Sun orbits the Earth!

  • Comment number 43.

    I Agree with Paula and I dont really like "artificial humour!", you're either interested in science or not?.........could be a great program

  • Comment number 44.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 45.

    BBC--Please please drop Dara from this show. His accent and speed of delivery mean that much of what he says is completely unintelligible and ruins what would be an excellent show otherwise.
    Having said that I agree with those who have asked for more GAZING at STARS!

  • Comment number 46.

    I did not mind Dara, I can see why others might find his presence irritating, though it should be noted that he is genuinely interested in science, he has incorporated this subject into his comedy and he has presented events promoting science, including with Brian Cox, live, not on TV, with nothing to with the BBC.
    So maybe this is why he was on the programme, not through any desire to 'dumb down'.

    However a show like this, with contributions from places like South Africa and Houston, as well as other live broadcasts, is a bit of a juggling act.
    All shows of that type are.

    I do not think Gene Cernan was at all treated badly, but some just love to find something to moan about, save it for the Daily Mail letters page or their truly celeb obsessed on line presence.
    (And Dr Cox was entirely right with his flag explanation, anyone with a trace of knowledge and common sense knows this).

    I also enjoyed Brain's crack at ITV, just look at their content, for factual programmes, much less science.
    Mixing video game footage with a 1988 IRA attack if you please............

    An engaging and interesting 3 nights, I've long been interested in this subject (and like so many others, you can thank the BBC's 'Sky At Night' for that).
    Even so, if it is an unfamiliar subject I can see how it could create interest in others.

  • Comment number 47.

    Dear all
    Its been great to read your comments, I really appreciate you all taking the time to provide feedback. 
    The aim of the show was to inspire and encourage people who had a passing interest in the Universe to get outside and take a look. Really great to see your comment Hoggy1972 that you downloaded an application and got outside and started stargazing.  That's exactly what we wanted people to get people stargazing. 
    We were more ambitious than last year and had more time outside with me (yes I am the 'bloke in the field' microoddiefan) and had more backup plans if it had been cloudy.  Planning a live TV show about stargazing is actually pretty challenging when you think about the weather so had to have loads of material.  It would have been a pretty dull hour of TV if it was cloudy and we had none of the other stuff.  On that note Alisondj, yes I think you were right, there was a faint meteor over my shoulder during one of the links, fortunately it wasn't quite as obvious as last years.
    It was material like the interview with Capt Eugene Cernan which gave the show an extra dimension.  It was interesting to read your comment Faircloc and that you were disappointed when Dara cut Capt Cernan short but timing is everything in a live show and to ensure other segments got sufficient coverage the interview was bought to an end.  There was no disrespect intended I can assure you. 
    The extra 30 minutes show "Back to Earth" was an addition this year and was meant to be a light hearted discussion about the topics already covered.  I'm really pleased to hear you enjoyed the 'starcasts', they can be downloaded from the web at bbc.co.uk/stargazing.. 
    The best thing of all was that it was all live which means it gave the whole show an extra buzz, even if we did get the odd little piece wrong like the date on the pic, well done Tony Munnery for spotting that.  OOps..
    Anyway, thanks everyone again for your comments, really do appreciate them.



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