BBC Learning brings Stargazing Live to Leicester

It’s wonderful to be able to build on our longstanding relationship with Stargazing. Over the years, we’ve worked with partners and astronomy groups across the UK to capitalise on the interest that the TV shows create by giving thousands of people opportunities to get actively involved with astronomy.Sinead Rocks, Head, BBC Learning
Date: 25.02.2015     Last updated: 26.02.2015 at 17.10
Category: Learning
To coincide with Stargazing Live returning to BBC Two, BBC Learning is holding a one-off spectacular live event, open to the general public, on Friday 20 March at Leicester racecourse to coincide with the solar eclipse that will effect the whole nation, the most spectacular in the UK for 16 years.

Special guests will include The European Space Agency [ESA] astronaut Paolo Nespoli (pictured above), who spent a total of 174 days on The International Space Station; Paul Franklin, who was the Visual Effects Supervisor from the recent blockbuster Interstellar; and Robin Ince from Radio 4's Infinite Monkey Cage.

Leicester has a tremendous space heritage as it is home to the National Space Centre and Leicester University, which are at the forefront of Space exploration and were heavily involved in the Beagle 2 mission to Mars in 2003.

This family-friendly day will be split into zones including Eclipse Central - eclipse-related experiments and explanations; Launch Pad - hands on 'train to be an astronaut' activities; Mission Control - coding meets the cosmos with a Dr Who coding game, science demos and telescope feeds from across the planet; and Astro Academy - where you can quiz the experts who are passionate about the mysteries of the universe.
The event will be open from 9am until 3pm and from 6pm until 9pm and will encourage astronomers old and new to look towards the sky.

During the day, activities will be geared towards schools and will include viewing the eclipse, finding out more about the solar system and taking part in hands-on experiments. There will even be a special zone, in the daytime, to encourage young stargazers to get involved, featuring the host of CBeebies Stargazing, Chris Jarvis.

As part the BBC's Make It Digital initiative to inspire young people to get creative with coding and digital technology, BBC Learning is putting on a Live Lesson, to engage schools across the UK to get involved in coding. Featuring CBBC’s Technobabble’s Marcus Bronzy and Vlogster, the 40-minute lesson will be performed in front of an audience of 300 pupils and explore how coding is essential to space exploration. Schools can tune in at 11am via the stargazing website.

Schools across the country are also invited to get involved in a citizen science project, working with the University of Reading and BBC Learning. It is suggested an ‘eclipse wind’ occurs, a cyclone created due to the cold outflow of air from the umbra (the region totally obscured by an eclipse). The debate on the existence, or otherwise, of the eclipse wind dates back more than a century. This year’s eclipse could provide the evidence needed to settle the debate conclusively, but it will take lots and lots of meteorological data. That’s why we want schools and amateur meteorologists to record temperature wind speed and wind direction during the eclipse event, to help us solve the mystery of the eclipse wind.

Sinead Rocks, Head of BBC Learning, says: “It’s wonderful to be able to build on our longstanding relationship with Stargazing. Over the years, we’ve worked with partners and astronomy groups across the UK to capitalise on the interest that the TV shows create by giving thousands of people opportunities to get actively involved with astronomy. This March, we’ve got the added bonus of a solar eclipse to kick-start our flagship event in Leicester as well as an ambitious nationwide project to get schools involved in a live science experiment. And of course, we’ll have plenty of extra content online to inspire any armchair stargazers out there to get up and give it a go.”

ESA Astronaut Paolo Nespoli comments “I’ve never been to Leicester and I’m really looking forward to visiting. It will be great to interact with the kids and share my enthusiasm of space, science, maths and technology”.

Highlights of Star Gazing Live event include:

  • Is Sci-Fi really rocket science?: For decades filmmakers have chronicled the relationship of the human race with the cosmos, space exploration and the possibility of alien life. Film critic James King, Interstellar Visual Effects Supervisor Paul Franklin and Astrophysicist Prof Martin Hendry discuss our fascination with science fact and science fiction on the silver screen.
  • Ask an Astronaut: ESA Astronaut Paolo Nespoli has spent 174 days in space and so knows what it’s like to live in the heavens. Find out what life is like more than 30km above the earth.
  • Meet the Mars Rovers: Beagle 2 comes home! The British probe which was designed and manufactured in Leicester crashes down in the Launch Pad zone along with its big sister Curiosity Rover, 'Bridget'.
  • Pi in the Sky: During the eclipse, live pictures will be beamed back from a weather balloon nearly 30Km above the Earth courtesy of a Raspberry Pi computer.
  • Solar Stage (evening only): Robin Ince (The Infinite Monkey Cage) hosts a rolling stage-show of science, music and comedy featuring Helen Arney and Steve Mould (The Spoken Nerd), Jon Chase (CBBC) and the Ministry of Fun’s take on the epic Space Race of the 1960s.

All this, as well as hands-on science, coding and stargazing. Admission is free, but the Astro Academy has a limited capacity and so is available on a first-come-first-served basis. Children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

More details at bbc.co.uk/stargazing

Notes to Editors

Live Lesson

The lesson will cover various elements from the Keystage 2 science and computing curriculum.
The lesson will be accessible via the Stargazing website from 11am on Friday 20 March.

Space Film Vote

From 2 March we are encouraging the nation to get involved in our very own space film vote. We have compiled a list of 20 films, which explore (some seriously, so me less so) mankind’s missions to the stars. The results will be revealed by James King as part of our 'Is Sci-Fi really rocket science?' panel. The vote will appear on bbc.co.uk/stargazing and be open from noon on Monday 2 March until noon on the day of the event. 

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