These days, Macclesfield is a much more lively town than I remember from my childhood. One (large) reason for this is the Barnaby Festival, a volunteer-run town festival that fills the town with arts and music. This year had a bit of a twist: the theme was SPACE! In all the meanings of the word, not just astronomical. I had the great pleasure of helping to plan this year’s festival as part of the live events team, and it’s been amazing.
One of the events I ended up working on was the Deep Space Lab, a collection of displays, activities and talks in the town hall running all day on Saturday and Sunday June 18-19th. For two days (apart from when I ran out to play with the samba band in the parade!), I ran the live observing part of the Deep Space Lab. Over the weekend we used telescopes run by the brilliant people at LCOGT (in Hawaii and Siding Spring, Australia) to observe a selection of astronomical objects in real time, watching the images coming in direct from the telescope in real time. Despite the rather large cloud bank sitting over eastern Australia for pretty much the entire weekend, the weather in Hawaii wasn’t half bad and we got some pretty stunning images.
The best of the images from the weekend are shown below. Astronomical colour images are usually made up of separate grey-scale images taken through different narrow-band filters which only let through particular colours of light. Most of the images taken during the Deep Space Lab were through red, green and blue filters, resulting in full-colour images like the one you see below. Astronomy is all about understanding the physics (and chemistry) of the universe using just the photons that reach us on the Earth – that is all the information we have, just the photons, so the more of them we collect, across as much of the spectrum as possible, the better we can understand what’s going on out there in all those stellar clusters, star-forming regions, and galaxies that we see. I don’t know about you, but I find it amazing how much we do understand about the universe from collecting those tiny photons.