How To Shoot The Stars – A Dazzling Astronomy Night

For those who were lucky enough to attend, Stephen Chadwick’s lecture was everything one could hope for and much more. Informative, fascinating, beautiful. The evening culminated into the screening of a video of the myriad high quality photographs taken by Steve over the years, compounded into a logical yet attractive slide show. This grandiose display of what the sky above us has to offer was set to a sensitive, moody and perfectly pitched improvisation on keyboard by Oliver Devlin. The audience was captivated and had many questions to ask.

For all the unanswered questions, Stephen Chadwick’s “Imaging the Southern Sky ” is an authoritative reference for years to come.

The library has a comprehensive collection of books and magazines on astronomy. For further information on how to find resources on astronomy, check out our Science page, or visit our non-fiction shelves in the Dewey area starting at 520.

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Curious about Curiosity?

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover is scheduled to land on the red planet at 5.31pm on Monday 6 August and you’re invited to Carter Observatory to witness this scientifically significant event hosted live by Carter and their colleagues from the KiwiSpace Foundation (if Curiosity survives its descent to the Martian surface that is…).

This special event will be running from 4.30pm with insights provided by the KiwiMars crew, followed by the live link up to that last “7 minutes of terror” as the rover descends onto the planet surface. This will be a great opportunity to learn about humankind’s next steps into space exploration, with the rover’s objectives including searching for past or present life, studying the Martian climate and geology, and collecting data for a future manned mission to Mars. (Note that the last planetarium show that day will be at 3pm so if you go up after that to watch the event admission will be on an exhibition only ticket basis: $10 adults / $ 8 concessions / $4 children / free entry to Star Pass holders).

The Transit of Venus is TODAY!

Watching the Transit of Venus at Central Library

Well, sadly the weather may be stopping us from seeing the Transit of Venus as it happens here in Wellington today – but all is not lost.

Come into Central Library today and see the transit streaming live from the NASA website by the display on the 1st floor.  You can also meet and ask questions with members from the Wellington Astronomical Society who are available until around 2pm to talk with people who are interested in the transit or astronomy generally.

So do come and take a look if you’re passing by – this is still the last opportunity in our lifetime to see the Transit of Venus and join in with thousands of people all around the world who will also be watching at the very same moment.

And you can still also see displays about the Transit of Venus on the 1st and 2nd floors at Central Library at the moment, including items from our Rare Book Collection such as an original copy of Sydney Parkinson’s journal of Captain Cook’s voyage to Tahiti to specifically observe the 1769 transit (before he then further explored the Pacific, including New Zealand).  And check out our Science popular topic page with links to books and good websites with more information about the Transit of Venus too.

Great Transit of Venus talk last night

Transits of Venus talk by Professor John HarperA big thank you to Professor John Harper for a great talk about Transits of Venus at Central Library last night. Both the scientific aspects of the Transit of Venus and historical notes of interests from previous transits were explained and brought to life by Professor Harper as he shared his considerable expertise and knowledge on this fascinating astronomical phenomenon.

And thank you also to everyone who came along last night – it was fantastic to see so many of you who are interested in the Transit of Venus.

If you would like to take the last opportunity in our lifetime to see the Transit of Venus yourself, you can join the Wellington Astronomical Society next Wednesday 6th June on the City to Sea Bridge (next to Civic Square) from 9.30am – 2.30pm to view the Transit of Venus as it happens (weather permitting). It’s so important that you don’t ever look at the sun directly as it will damage your eyes irreparably, but you’ll be able to view the transit safely with the Society, using their equipment. If the weather prevents any viewing outside on Wednesday the Society will be stationed inside the library on the first floor (by the current Transit of Venus display) and we’ll have live feeds streaming from around the world.

Also, take a look at the website for The Royal Society of New Zealand, with a range of really good information about the Transit of Venus and what’s happening this year, including the 2012 Transit of Venus Forum – Lifting our Horizon and Pounamu, an online game which asks the question – “How do we treasure and build on what we already have – land, people, knowledge and connections – with new tools, new capacities, new connections and new ways of thinking to generate prosperity for all?” Sign up to play the game and have your say on the issues discussed at the Transit of Venus Forum.

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Free Transit of Venus talk tonight

Transit of Venus

Only one week left to go until we will have the last opportunity in our lifetime to see the Transit of Venus on Wednesday 6 June.   Fingers crossed the weather will be clear and sunny again like it is today for a clear view!

In the meantime join us at Central Library tonight (Wednesday 30 May) for a free talk at 7pm by John Harper (Emeritus Professor of Applied Mathematics, Victoria University) who will bring the story of the Transits of Venus to life in a free talk . Professor Harper will discuss not only what transits are and why they happen, but also why they were considered important enough for expeditions to be sent all over the world to observe them, and New Zealand’s role in previous transits.  Don’t miss out on this great talk – there’s no need to book, just come along and join us on the 2nd (top) floor at Central Library, ready for the talk to begin at 7pm. 

And don’t forget that you can join the Wellington Astronomical Society next Wednesday on the City to Sea Bridge (next to Civic Square) from 9.30am – 2.30pm to view the Transit of Venus as it happens (weather permitting).  It’s so important that you don’t ever look at the sun directly as it will damage your eyes irreparably, but you’ll be able to view the transit safely with the Society, using their equipment.   If the weather prevents any viewing outside on Wednesday the Society will be stationed inside the library on the first floor (by the current Transit of Venus display) and we’ll have live feeds streaming from around the world. 

You can also see displays about the Transit of Venus on the 1st and 2nd floors at Central Library at the moment, including items from our Rare Book Collection such as an original copy of Sydney Parkinson’s journal of Captain Cook’s voyage to Tahiti to specifically observe the 1769 transit (before he then further explored the Pacific, including New Zealand).  And check out our Science popular topic page with links to books and good websites with more information about the Transit of Venus too.

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Random Film Festival Factoids: Agora

Agora (imdb page) recounts the events around and subsequent to the destruction of the library at Alexandria in 391AD, telling the story of Hypatia, a notable female mathematician, philosopher, astronomer and teacher. After Emperor Constantine declared Christianity legal, Alexandrian society was shaken to the core, with the political and religious machinations of Cyril, Pope of Alexandria, and Orestes, Prefect of the Diocese of Egypt, leading to a tragic climax.

Read the review of Agora in Sight and Sound here (you’ll need your library card number). Director Alejandro Amenábar was also responsible for The Others (2002), starring Nicole Kidman, and The Sea Inside (2005) with Javier Bardem.

The Library at Alexandria features in Library: an unquiet history, by Matthew Battles and also Libraries in the ancient world, by Lionel Casson

(Incidentally, the new library of Alexandria is an impressive building. Visit the website here, or have a look at the architecture here.)

If you would like to read more about Hypatia try these titles:
The book of dead philosophers, Simon Critchley
Doubt: a history: the great doubters and their legacy of innovation, from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson, Jennifer Michael Hecht

Search for books on the history of astronomy, and early Church history.

Hypatia is also the subject of the novel Hypatia: New Foes with an Old Face by Charles Kingsley, published in 1894. The library has a copy, or you can download it for free from Project Gutenberg here.

The Christmas Star – is there a scientific explanation for the Star of Bethlehem?

A free talk by Frank Andrews from Wellington Astronomical Society

Is it possible to give a scientific explanation for the biblical account of the appearance of a bright star at the time of the birth of Jesus?  By studying the few fragments of information that are available and combining them with known historical material it is possible to exclude some theories that have been put forward over the last four centuries. In putting together this complex jigsaw puzzle over a period of nearly five decades, Frank Andrews suggests a possible new scenario which fits well with biblical accounts and known, independent historical records.

Come and join us to hear more in what promises to be an entertaining talk with Frank as we near Christmas and celebrate the last event in our International Year of Astronomy series with Wellington City Libraries and Wellington Astronomical Society.

 Tuesday 1 December, 7-8pm at Central Library

The Dark Side of Lighting

Light pollution is an increasing problem threatening not only astronomy, but also human health, eco systems, safety and our human heritage.  But being dark sky friendly does not mean no light – it means using the light that you need for a particular task in the most efficient manner possible. 

Find out what you can do to save energy, money and keep the skies as natural as possible in this free illustrated talk with Steve Butler, Director of the Dark Skies Group, signatory to the NZ Urban Design Protocol and member of the International Dark-Sky Association, an educational organisation working to preserve the natural night skies worldwide.

When: Tuesday 6th October, 7pm

Where: Central Library (Victoria Street)

Apollo plus 40: Central Library event

40 years ago this July humans landed on the Moon for the first time – and then did it five more times over the next three and a half years. In this illustrated presentation, David Maclennan, President of the NZ Spaceflight Association, will reflect on how and why the Apollo programme came to be, its historical and cultural significance, and how we experienced it all from afar here in New Zealand.

Project Apollo reflected the heady optimism of the “Swinging 60’s”, when the world finally shook off the post-World War 2 gloom and envisaged a bright, shiny future, perhaps best epitomised by Stanley Kubrick’s classic movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. That this utopian future never quite eventuated may in part explain why humans haven’t returned to the Moon since December 1972.

But all that will soon change – come along to find out more about plans for humans to be back on the Moon by 2020, and later on to Mars…

When: Tuesday 21 July, 7-8pm

Where: Central Library, 65 Victoria Street, Wellington

Cosmodome sessions booked out

The cosmodome, a portable planetarium for showing the night sky, has been so popular that all sessions for today,  its final day at Central Library, have been booked out very quickly.  We have been thrilled with the response from the public over the last five days.

More events for the International Year of Astronomy are planned, watch this blog for details as they come to hand.