Last updated May 25, 2018 at 4:27 pm
From Australia’s past to our future, we found out how entwined with the stars we really are.
It was the final night for this year’s Stargazing Live. Farewell Brian, farewell Julia. See you soon Greg and Kumi and Lisa and Chris and Alan. Here’s what we learnt from Episode 3.
That new world record? We smashed it!
Guys. Guys. Not only are we finding new supernovas, but we’re setting world records while we’re at it. And doing it in style!
The previous record for the most number of people simultaneously stargazing at multiple sites was 7960, set by the ANU in 2015.
This year ANU teamed up with Stargazing Live to beat their own record, and boy did we ever. On night 2 thousands of people turned out across Australia to observe the Moon – so many so that Guinness World Records are still counting and calculating how many people actually took part!
All we know is that we broke the record comfortably – last estimate we heard was at least 44,000!
We are officially amazing! Over 44,000 people! pic.twitter.com/dYmEpsVU9U
— Brad Tucker (@btucker22) May 24, 2018
Doubling down on supernova discoveries
While we’re on the topic of supernovas – we found another!
As announced during Episode 2, four Stargazing Sherlocks had discovered a supernova as it happened – a discovery that allowed astronomers to zoom in and capture it occurring.
Well, between nights 2 and 3 we found a second Type 1a supernova! Around 1 billion years away, the light from the supernova reaching us now was released before humans, before dinosaurs, and probably really before life started taking hold on Earth.
Combining the data from the two supernovas, the team came up with a calculation that the universe was around 15.2 billion years old. However, making that calculation from only 2 pieces of data means it’s not very accurate, so they combined our new supernova data with what we already knew about the age of the universe to refine and improve our estimate.
Before our two supernova had been discovered the universe was considered to be 13,797,616,664 years old (give or take). After adding our two new supernovas to the data pool, we can add an extra 533,912 years to that age.
From our discoveries, scientists now have an even more accurate idea of how old our universe is. And that’s pretty cool.
What’s also really cool is that the team at Siding Spring have been using the AAT – the massive telescope in the background of Julia and Brian’s makeshift studio – to follow up on the results every night after filming has finished.
Australia you should feel proud of your discoveries these last few days as well as supporting such a celebration of science in #StargazingABC I know I’m proud to have been part of it pic.twitter.com/rkGKbvtSXy
— Alan Duffy (@astroduff) May 24, 2018
You can build a satellite at home
Julia and Brian checked in with Iver Cairns, who was part of the team that launched and deployed 3 cube satellites built by UNSW in collaboration with other universities around Australia.
The first Australian built satellites to be launched in 15 years, they were deployed from the ISS.
The great thing about cubesats though is that they’re standardised. It’s based on a chassis of a set size, and most of the electronic modules can be bought off the shelf ready for assembly.
Related: Australia’s Future in Space
But please don’t, space junk is bad enough
There is literally thousands, if not tens of thousands of pieces of space junk floating around above our heads as we speak.
Some are dead satellites, some are broken equipment, there’s even a spatula. But even something as miniscule as a paint chip can cause massive damage if it hits something – travelling at 30,000km/h they punch through things like a bullet.
Indeed, the ISS needs to occasionally take emergency action to avoid space junk on a potential collision course.
Related: True or False with Andrea Boyd
But one of the biggest bits of space junk did return to Earth. In 1979 NASA’s SkyLab space station made an uncontrolled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, missing it’s target of the Pacific Ocean (which is, you know, quite big) and instead crashing into Western Australia.
The Shire of Esperance issued NASA with a $400 fine for littering, and fair enough too. They just left their junk lying around.
One of those bits was brought to Siding Spring especially for the show, and it was admittedly super-cool to be able to see such a significant part of space history.
Indigenous Songlines are our past, present and future
The Indigenous people of Australia have always had a very close relationship with the stars, and Greg taught us some of their rich history.
They would take cues from the stars that it was time for things on the ground. There would be certain patterns that would tell them, for example, when the plums were ripe, the stingrays were fat, or that it was time to hunt goanna.
Greg also talked about the emu in the sky, which according to some groups was the Emu Man who created the country, and taught them right from wrong. When he was finished he went up into the sky, where he can be seen amongst the stars, reminding the people he was keeping watch.
Greg also talked with Dr Noel Nannup, an elder from the Noongar people of southern Western Australia about Songlines – tracks on the Earth that tell the stories of creation and the people. These tracks were carved out using the stars as navigation.
Songlines stem from the creation of Earth when the land was flat and featureless. The giant serpent moved across the land, leaving valleys and hills where it went. These created the pathways, trails and trade routes – Songlines.
The routes are passed down through generations through songs, stories and the stars. Indeed, in the Noongar nation there is a giant W traced through the sky, which matches a W between landmarks on Earth.
Thousands of years later when European settlers came to Australia, they followed the trails that were already carved out by the local people. These were expanded, and eventually became the template for many roads. To this day, our modern road system follows the Songlines created by the traditional owners over tens of thousands of years.
Lisa got high, live on air
Who doesn’t enjoy spending a Thursday night strapped to several helium balloons?
Lisa was live in the studio simulating the lesser gravity of several locations off Earth. First up – Mars, where she weighed around one-third of her normal weight. And that lead to her highlight of the series – being thrown around the studio by Brian Cox.
She landed far more gracefully than I could.
Adding more balloons dropped her apparent weight to one-sixth of normal, which created a problem when she tried to use a shovel. With such little weight she couldn’t put force into the shovel to dig into the dirt, and thanks to Newton kept flying off the shovel itself.
We finally have a drinks recipe!
Thanks to our friend Andrea Boyd we finally got the first cocktail recipe from Back to Earth: night 2’s Milky Way Martini:
We have answers!
The brilliant Kristin, inventor of Milky Way cocktail said:
Choc sauce swirl inside glass
Blend together with ice:
Tiny bit of cream
Pour into martini glass
Vanilla ice cream scoop
Blue & white sprinkles pic.twitter.com/9uRFJBmn3Y
— Andgie (@AusAndgie7) May 24, 2018
So that was Stargazing Live for another year. See you on our screens in 2019.