Conferences and comets

Well it’s been a busy few weeks. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to see Comet PanSTARRS, it was far too cloudy where I am and there was also too much light pollution. Despite my own lack of a sighting, I did appear briefly on Sky News (see here) speaking about how you might see the comet. I should have listened to my own advice and gone to somewhere a bit darker…possibly like the new dark skies reserve that was created recently in Exmoor National Park.  May be a good place to go for Comet ISON, only 8 months to go…fingers crossed it will be easier to spot.

Last week I was away at the Lunar Planetary Science Conference in Houston. This was a fantastic week of scientific presentations on all manner of space-related research. Check out the abstract volume here for 2 page summaries of the science presented. My abstract is here which I presented on Friday 22nd March in the ‘Stardust and IDPs’ session, which I also chaired alongside Don Brownlee. I had lots of fun and I had some useful feedback after my talk, so hopefully some exciting new collaborations are on the way.

I also had a busy media week. I was mentioned in The Guardian and The Telegraph newspapers in relation to the BBC Women Expert Training. I also appeared in a podcast for the Milton Keynes Citizen website speaking about my research and where I work. I also now appear on the new BBC Expert Women YouTube Channel that was announced and released by Tim Davie, the acting BBC director-general. The channel includes the podcasts of all the expert women from the course I attended in January. It’s really interesting to see what everyone does.

Anyway, I’m back in the lab now after the madness of conference preparation and travelling. This week I’m analysing carbon and nitrogen isotopes in a meteorite sample, hopefully I’ll get some interesting results.

Comet PanSTARRS update…warm up for ISON

Comet PanSTARRS by Michael Mattiazzo
Comet PanSTARRS by Michael Mattiazzo

Seems like we should get a chance to see PanSTARRS in the northern hemisphere from March 8th through to March 20th. People in the southern hemisphere have already got some great pictures of the comet so it’s all getting quite exciting. The idea will be to look west just after sunset each night and scan the horizon. PanSTARRS should appear close to the crescent Moon on March 12th so will be easiest to spot then. Comet PanSTARRS is predicted to reach a magnitude +3 in brightness which is not quite as high as the 0 that was predicted initially but it could always surprise us if it suddenly releases more ice on its journey past the Sun than we think it will. So, theoretically we should be able to see it with the naked eye. As usual though, binoculars or a telescope will work much better. Fingers crossed for clear skies through March!

PanSTARRS is giving us a great opportunity for a warm-up act in time for Comet ISON later in the year (Nov/Dec time). ISON may be even brighter, but as usual with comets, only time will tell what we’ll actually get to see.

For a bit more info about PanSTARRS and ISON, see my earlier blog entries in February 2013.

TV appearance on Horizon!!

This week I appeared on BBC2 talking about meteorites and impacts on ‘Horizon: The Truth About Meteors’. It’s still available on iPlayer (UK only I think) and should be for a fair while if you missed it, or if you need to see it again to understand the science (they covered quite a lot!). I thought the production team did a great job and it was a fun experience being involved with the making of a programme that they put together in one week! Very impressive. Here’s a screen capture of me speaking on the show, the rest was presented by Professor Iain Stewart and they also interviewed other scientists from The Open University (Prof Monica Grady) and one of my collaborators from the Natural History Museum in London (Prof Sara Russell). Great seeing so many faces I know on TV!

Me speaking about asteroids on 'Horizon: Truth about Meteors'
Me speaking about asteroids on ‘Horizon: Truth about Meteors’

…PanSTARRS update to come soon, but look out for the comet at the end of this week, I’ve been too busy to write more about it but endeavour to do so soon…