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IYA2009 Press Release 0950
Royal Astronomical Society Press Information Notice
TWEETING SHOOTING STARS
Ref.: RAS PN 09/50
Date: 10th August 2009
For immediate release

Issued by
Dr Robert Massey
Press and Policy Officer
Royal Astronomical Society
Burlington House
Piccadilly
London W1J 0BQ
Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 3307
Mob: +44 (0)794 124 8035
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TWEETING SHOOTING STARS (RAS PN 09/50)

Amateur astronomers across the UK are preparing to tweet the world’s first mass participation meteor star party, as part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009). Led by Newbury Astronomical Society, the Twitter Meteorwatch will take place on Tuesday 11th and Wednesday 12th August 2009, covering the peak of the Perseids meteor shower.

Meteors (popularly known as ‘shooting stars’) are the visible streaks of light that result from the disintegration of small particles entering the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed. In this case the material comes from the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed near the Earth in 1992. The meteors appear to originate from a ‘radiant’ in the constellation of Perseus and so are named Perseids.

During the peak of the shower between fifty and eighty shooting stars may be visible each hour from a dark sky site. The Newbury astronomers will lead a global network of amateur stargazers who will be live-tweeting images of the meteors as well as twitpics of the Moon, Jupiter and a host of nebulae, galaxies and other astronomical objects.

With UK amateur astronomy societies and astronomers around the world taking part, the Twitter Meteorwatch should reach tens of thousands of people. Richard Fleet, President of Newbury Astronomy Society is delighted that so many people are involved. “The Perseids can be spectacular and are one of the highlights of the astronomical calendar. Join in our Meteorwatch and you can enjoy one of the most beautiful sights in the sky for yourself.”

Steve Owens, the UK Co-ordinator of IYA2009 adds: “IYA2009 is all about getting people to look up and ask questions about the night sky. With so many astronomers taking part in this Twitter Meteorwatch event there will always be something to see and someone to answer your questions. It’s great that amateur astronomers like Newbury Astronomical Society are using a social networking tool like Twitter to bring one of the oldest sciences to the general public.”

The Meteorwatch follows on from a Twitter Moonwatch that Newbury Astronomical Society ran in May this year, during which thousands of people saw images of the Moon, tweeted questions to expert astronomers, and chatted online about astronomy.

Richard Fleet now sees Twitter as an ideal way to popularise astronomy. “We realised early on that what people want is images of the night sky, so we used our array of telescopes and cameras to provide a constant stream of pictures which we uploaded straight to Twitter. We were amazed at how excited people were about our Twitter Moonwatch; we had thousands of people who had probably never looked through a telescope before asking us questions directly and viewing images.”

CONTACTS

Richard Fleet
Newbury Astronomical Society
Tel: +44 (0)1672 563859 (evenings)
Mob:
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Steve Owens
UK Co-ordinator, IYA2009
c/o Glasgow Science Centre
50 Pacific Quay
Glasgow G51 1EA
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)141 420 5010 x. 299
Mob: +44 (0)771 772 0479
E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

FURTHER INFORMATION

To take part in the Twitter Moonwatch, just follow @NewburyAS and @astronomy209uk on http://twitter.com and search for the term #meteorwatch.

Newbury Astronomical Society: Perseids
http://newburyas.wordpress.com/2009/08/03/twitter-meteorwatch/

IYA2009: UK home page
http://www.astronomy2009.co.uk

NOTES FOR EDITORS

THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF ASTRONOMY 2009 (IYA 2009)

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA 2009) is a global celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and culture. It is intended to stimulate worldwide interest not only in astronomy, but in science in general, with a particular slant towards young people. IYA 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of the monumental leap forward that followed Galileo Galilei’s first use of the telescope for astronomical observations. In the UK the chair of IYA2009 is Professor Ian Robson, director of the UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh, and the co-ordinator for IYA 2009 activities is Steve Owens, also a UKATC employee. UK IYA 2009 activities are jointly funded by the Royal Astronomical Society (www.ras.org.uk), the Institute of Physics (www.iop.org) and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (www.stfc.ac.uk).

IYA 2009: UK home page
http://www.astronomy2009.co.uk

THE ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organizes scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 3000 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.