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SUMMER STUDENTS SHOW THEIR PACES

Armagh Observatory, 26 August 2003: Armagh Observatory summer work-experience students have this year included those appointed under the Nuffield Foundation Science Bursary scheme and the British Council organized International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE) programme. They have completed a large number of useful and interesting projects in astronomy and related sciences. These range from studies of “born again” stars, which evolve on human time-scales, returning to life, as it were, from a period of terminal decline, to the development of a web-site to promote wider appreciation of the Observatory's involvement in the Beagle 2 Lander on Mars. In addition, Queen's University of Belfast student Nigel Addis worked on the Observatory's nearly 210-year long climate archive; while others have addressed the issue of Light Pollution in the City of Armagh, and the development of automatic procedures to extract the physical parameters of stars from analyses of their spectra.

Emma Stephenson (Strathearn Grammar School, Belfast) completed work on the “born again” star FG Sagittae. This is a rare star that has returned to life from the “white dwarf” stage by re-igniting its last reserves of nuclear fuel and evolving to become a rather unusual kind of yellow supergiant. The star has about the same temperature as our Sun, but is more than 10,000 times as luminous. Lindsay Magill (Wallace High School, Lisburn), David Holsgrove (Abbey Grammar School, Newry) and Michael Magee (Methodist College, Belfast) have worked on different aspects of the problem of light pollution in and around the City of Armagh. Together they have achieved a greater understanding of this problem locally, and have provided very useful statistics and background material summarising the benefits of reduced external lighting and how this might be achieved in practice. Light pollution is a waste of energy. For example, the wasted electricity due to light shining upwards from poorly shielded streetlights alone corresponds, in the UK, to some 300,000 tonnes of coal per year, equivalent to the weight of 48,000 African Male Elephants. (See, Light Pollution in the City of Armagh, poster in PDF format, and web page.)

The IAESTE student Agnieszka Drewniak (Technical University of Lodz, Poland) has developed a web-site to illustrate the appearance of astronomical phenomena visible from the surface of Mars, in particular the partial eclipses of the Martian satellite Phobos, as seen from the Beagle 2 Lander in February 2004. This experiment, which represents the Observatory's involvement in the Beagle 2 mission, is designed to enable the position of the lander to be precisely located on Mars: navigating by the shadow of Phobos. Another IAESTE student, Gustavo Henrique Dopcke (University Estadual de Campinas, Brasil), has been developing automatic procedures to measure and analyse the spectral lines for many stars simultaneously. For every IAESTE student who comes to Northern Ireland from another country, one Northern Ireland student obtains a reciprocal position abroad. This British Council supported scheme thus encourages cultural exchange between nations and a greater understanding of Northern Ireland throughout the world. The Observatory's 2003 Summer Programme is supported by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. It helps to provide high-quality training for students from around Northern Ireland and beyond, and provides young people with a wide range of opportunities to experience scientific research in a modern, high technology astronomical research environment.

Examples of some of the Observatory's student projects, past and present, can be seen by visiting the work-experience web-page: http://star.arm.ac.uk/~csj/essays/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; e-mail: jmf@star.arm.ac.uk; URL: http://star.arm.ac.uk/.

Last Revised: 2003 August 29th
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Emma Stephenson Agnieszka Drewniak Gustavo Henrique Dopcke Lindsay Magill David Holsgrove