Astrofest Awesomeness

Well I thought I ought to do a blog post about my time at Astrofest 2011 over the last few days. It was a fantastic 2 days, learnt a lot, met some lovely people and generally had a superb time.

I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous and apprehensive about going along. I knew no one except for a few people I ‘knew of’ on Twitter. I’m not usually good when you put me in the situation of this kind of thing with loads of random people.

Nevertheless I found how to get to High Street Kensington on the tube (tube maps confuse me) and on Friday morning at 8am I left to find my way. I then went in search of breakfast and coffee before I went in.

Now, despite checking how to get to the event on Google Maps, Google Street View and the fact that I had my iPhone with me, I still managed to get lost. I even missed the giant sign that said ‘ASTROFEST IS HERE’. Even the swarms of people heading to that big building over there didn’t help me out. I got there in the end though, just in time for Session 1.

The first talk was by Dr Emily Baldwin (@AstroEmz) on the moons of Mars. Continue reading

Drake’s Equation: The Search for Life

The BBC television series Bang Goes the Theory (@bbcbang) has managed to do a truly fantastic job of engaging people, young and old, in science and technology. Now one of their presenters, Dallas Campbell, is hosting a special one off, one hour documentary on the Drake equation.

I’m quite excited about it for it is one of the most important equations, at least in my opinion, ever conceived. The equation sets out to figure how many planets may be suitable for life in the galaxy, and on those planets whether life arises, and ultimately how many intelligent civilisations there are capable of communicating with us.

Carl Sagan did a short bit on this equation in his 1980’s TV series ‘Cosmos’. Since then however we have learnt more and can refine the numbers we input to get ever increasing more accurate answers.

The chaps at BBC Bang are surely going to manage to pull off quite an astonishing programme. It airs on Tuesday 14th December on BBC Four at 8pm. Be sure to set your recorders.

In the meantime here’s a sneaky peek. A video of Dallas interviewing Dr Felisa Wolfe-Simon about the (highly debatable, I might add) discovery of Arsenic loving bacteria.

Edit: I meant to add that my OU course head lecturer, Dr David Rothery, was one of the scientific consultants for the programme. More information on the programme is here if you want a read!

Exciting Astrobiology Discovery

Stay tuned for an exciting astrobiology discovery! NASA are holding a news conference tonight at 1900 GMT to discuss a finding ‘that will affect the search for life’. Sounds jolly intriguing. Looking at some of the discussions on the OU forums from our course head, it looks likely to be based on lifeforms that can use arsenic in place of phosphorous. It could demonstrate separately developed life on Earth, increasing again the chance for life elsewhere.

Enough guessing and stuff though we’ll find out from the conference tonight. You can watch it here at NASA TV. Starts 1900 GMT on the media channel I believe!