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CHRIS NORTH AT ASHBY SCHOOL. On Wednesday 8 th October an astronomer friend of mine Peter Crane and I *visited Ashby School to listen to a lecture on Cosmology by Prof Chris North. We were also invited to meet him over lunch and sit in on him teaching a 6 th form class.

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chris north at ashby school

CHRIS NORTH AT ASHBY SCHOOL

On Wednesday 8th October an astronomer friend of mine Peter Crane and I *visited Ashby School to listen to a lecture on Cosmology by Prof Chris North. We were also invited to meet him over lunch and sit in on him teaching a 6th form class.

This is a summary of our visit.

prof chris north
PROF CHRIS NORTH
  • Former student at Ashby School.
  • Most people may know him from his appearances onBBC Sky at Night.
  • Has degrees in Experimental & Theoretical Physics from Cambridgeand Astrophysics from Oxford Universities.
  • Presently based at Cardiff University & involved with project *Clover.
  • Also responsible for the **calibration of the Spireinstrument on board the Herschel Space Observatory, which observes far-infrared and submillimetre light from gas and dust in our galaxy and beyond.
  • Is the UK Herschel ***Outreach Officer, where he is responsible for coordinating UK-wide outreach activities for the Herschel Space Observatory with schools & other groups.
  • Is a member of the team behind Chromoscopeone of the most popular online astronomy applications.
  • Manages both theUK Herschel &Planckwebsites.
chris north on cosmology
CHRIS NORTH ON COSMOLOGY

During the lecture he described how the Universe evolved from the Big Bang up to the present day. He discussed topics such as:

  • Inflation
  • Gravity
  • The first stars, galaxies and super massive black holes (which came first is still open for debate!)
  • Cosmic Background Radiation (CMB)
  • The ultimate fate of the Universe.
cmb map of the universe
CMB map of the Universe.

Average temperature across the map is 3⁰K and every colour represents temperature differences of thousandths of a degree K.

Produced with data from the COBE & recently the PLANCK satellites.

evolution of our universe the big bang rapid inflation followed by a much slower expansion
EVOLUTION OF OUR UNIVERSETHE BIG BANG, RAPID INFLATION FOLLOWED BY A MUCH SLOWER EXPANSION

The theory of *Inflation was first proposed by Physicist Alan Guth in 1980. It involves the faster than light expansion of space time during an extremely **brief period of the very early Universes existence.

demonstration of how space time expands
Demonstration of how space time expands
  • Chris carried this out to show how space time expands using marked rope, elastic and some ‘volunteer’ students!
  • The volunteers held the *marked rope lightly and the *marked elastic tightly, then moved to the left and right of the central point.
  • As they moved the elastic stretched and when he *stopped them the marks no longer matched. Not only that but the stretching was greater at the extremities.
  • This demonstrated that objects aren’t moving, its the space time they exist in that is expanding, which gives the illusion of movement!
what is the fate of our universe
What is the fate of our Universe?

The most likely explanation at present is that the Universe will go on *expanding at a faster and faster rate until after trillions of years (and after matter itself has broken down), it’s expected that only individual protons will exist, separated by distances that now separate galaxies!

Talk about lonely!

Sadly there will be no evidence left that the human race ever existed! Unless ....... ?

maths class
MATHS CLASS!
  • After a buffet lunch where we discussed various subjects with Chris and he found out that his dad had known of Peter and his observatory, *we sat in on a 6th form class named ‘What Is The Universe Made of’.
  • Using Keplers laws the class had to calculate the mass of the Sun, the orbital velocity of a star around a galaxy, then the mass of a galaxy and finally the rotational velocity of a galaxy at 6 different radii: from 10,000 to 100,000 light years! Maths not being my strong point, I couldn’t help our team much! Some of the students arrived at the correct solutions.
  • Then the students used a program called **‘Heavens Kitchen’ to fiddle with varying amounts of matter/dark matter/dark energy then run the program to see how their Universe evolved and if it resembled at all our Universe. Generally they didn’t!
  • Chris left a lot of resource material for use by the school, of which examples are on display.
summary
SUMMARY
  • A very interesting visit, which we both enjoyed.
  • We learnt a lot and hope (Peter especially) that it will lead to a closer relationship with the school and it’s students and to a mutual appreciation of astronomy via Peters observatory resource.