News Roundup

It’s not often that your own department gets onto the BBC News, but to do it twice in a few days with different stories has to be worth a mention!

Earlier this week was an item about the Einstein Telescope project, which has just received 3M euros in funding for design studies. Unlike familiar telescopes, this one is planned to exploit gravitational waves rather than the usual optical, radio or X-ray radiation (which are all varieties of electromagnetic waves). Gravitational radiation hasn’t actually been detected yet, but there are good reasons to believe that it will soon be measured for the first time. The next challenge will be to use gravitational waves from distant sources to study the processes that generate them, such as collisions between black holes. That’s what the new project is intended to do. In principle, gravitational waves will allow us to look much farther into the distant Universe (and therefore farther back in time) than we can do with even the largest optical or radio telescopes so this could be the dawn of a new era of observational astronomy.

But that doesn’t mean that optical telescopes will be defunct, especially when it comes to inspiring the young to take up an interest in astronomy. The other news item on the BBC this week about this department is our own new (optical) telescope which is now fully installed and will shortly to be opened. This is situated on the roof of the building that houses the School of Physics & Astronomy and it will be used primarily for undergraduate teaching, but it will also be available to be used by the general public and school visits on open nights. It should be put to particularly good use in 2009, which is the International Year of Astronomy.

It’s a small telescope by professional standards, about half a metre in diameter, but large compared with what’s available at other Universities in the UK and it promises to be a valuable addition to our already large range of astronomical facilities which is one of the reasons Cardiff is such a good place to work and study.

On the grounds that all publicity is good publicity, I was very pleased to see these things get a full airing on the local media, although I have to admit that the news that really caught my eye this week was the discovery of a headless corpse on the track at Llandaff railway station.

One Response to “News Roundup”

  1. I hope the headless corpse discovery isn’t a precursor of events to come, following the installation of a telescope in cloudy climes.

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