The BBC are broadcasting over three nights in the UK (8pm each evening, BBC2), a live astronomy programme presented by Prof Brian Cox (Wonders of the Solar System) and comedian Dara O’Briain (Mock the Week). It is aimed at getting people interested in looking up at the night sky, astronomy and probably benefitting the people who have received telescopes over Christmas.
It happens to co-incide with a few astronomical events that are taking place over the next week, namely a partial solar eclipse on Tuesday morning (7am – 9.30am UK time) and the Quadrantids meteor shower, peaking on the 4th of January. There is the close alignment of Jupiter and Uranus as well, which should be viewable in a reasonable field of view.
The shows are intended to cover a number of things during the one hour-per night shows, including getting TV-person Jonathan Ross (Film 2009, Radio 2 presenter, Tonight with Jonathan Ross) to set up a telescope and start using it (episode 1). Apparently Mr Ross is a budding astronomer and has had a telescope for some time, but never used it.
The show will also be broadcast from the Jodrell Bank radio telescope, which will provide a fantastic background to the shows. The ‘One Show’s astronomer Mark Thompson will also share useful tips.
Dara O’Briain also has a keen interest in astronomy so I’m hoping that through these three well-known faces, they will help to promote astronomy – weather allowing!
The show appears to be covering a number of things, including what people can do themselves to get to know the night sky along with visits to site sof astronomical and scientific research.
What I hope these programmes will do is help get people to look up at the night sky (and know that there are wonderful sights they can see in their own back garden). Hopefully it can be done without too much ‘techie’ talk, so that people get turned off the programme. However, Prof Brian Cox has a good track record in this area and is well known to the general public. If ‘seeds of inspiration’ can be planted amongst the general public, hopefully it will raise the general ‘appreciation’ of astronomy as a scientific subject.
A possible side benefit is that it may raise the profile of the astronomer’s enemy – light pollution and what can be done by everyone to reduce it.
Some public outreach events have been announced on Twitter and some astronomy club webpages, along with a list of events on the Stargazing website. I would also recommend checking the ‘Society for Popular Astronomy’ for other useful information on the the partial eclipse and meteor shower ( http://www.popastro.com ).
More information can be found on the BBC Stargazing website:-
… and can also be followed on Twitter using the #BBCStargazing hashtag, along with the following Twitter handles:-
Jodrell bank can be found at:-
I’d expect that the programme will be available to view via BBC iPlayer (in the UK) for the next seven days as well.