A PUSH is under way on Tyneside to encourage people to spend more time with the stars.
In October the Centre for Life in Newcastle opened its planetarium.
Now the centre is home to a prestigious exhibition which takes an offbeat approach to astronomy and astronomers.
The display, which marks the end of the International Year of Astronomy, is backed by a new planetarium show, a lecture and a six-week course for the amateur astronomer or the plain curious.
The Explorers of the Universe exhibition, which runs until March, features work by acclaimed photographer Max Alexander portraying people and places of astronomical significance.
One of the studies is of cosmologist Carlos Frenk, Professor of Fundamental Physics at Durham University, who officially opened the £1.5m Newcastle planetarium.
The theatre-style dome incorporates an overhead, suspended 10-metre wide circular-shaped screen, and there are 65 reclining seats. The unlit part of Prof Frenk’s face is 23% of the frame, which represents dark matter, and the rest of the frame is dark energy.
“So it is a representation of what astronomers know about the Universe”, said Mr Alexander.
Other portraits include Patrick Moore, Stephen Hawking , and ex-Queen guitarist Dr Brian May.
Dr Sean Paling from the University of Sheffield was photographed one kilometre underground at Boulby Mine in North Yorkshire to represent his work on dark matter.
Using a single two-minute exposure, the words Dark Matter were spelt out with a torch .
The exhibition includes images of the birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton with an apple tree in the foreground and Stonehenge is depicted at sunrise during the Summer Solstice.
Elin Roberts, head of public engagement at the Centre for Life, has a keen personal interest in astronomy and presents a “live” tour of the night sky at the planetarium on the first Saturday of each month.
Earlier this week, a riveting sight in the North East night sky was the sight of a crescent moon with what appeared to be a bright star at the base of the lunar curve.
But, said Elin, the “star” was the planet Jupiter and having such knowledge would enhance people’s enjoyment of the heavens.
She said: “Winter is a good time to interest more people in astronomy because of the dark nights.”
A new North East astronomical society, Luna, has been set up and meets at the Centre for Life.
Tomorrow at 7pm the society hosts Weather and the Planets, a free talk by Look North’s lead weather presenter Paul Mooney.
Paul said: “Here on Earth, we like nothing better than to complain about a chilly winter’s night or a bit of Monday morning drizzle, but how much would we grumble if we had to contend with Mercury’s range of temperatures which spans 610 degrees Celsius or the thunderstorms thought to originate in Venus’ sulphuric acid clouds?”
A NEW show called Christmas Star begins tomorrow the Centre for Life’s planetarium and will run until January 3.
It explores the myth and the scientific mystery behind the star as a symbol of Christmas.
On Saturday at 4pm there will be a show looking at the Newcastle sky above the Centre for Life to see the planets and constellations.
Starting on January 21, Mini Astro is an astronomy course with weekly speaker presentations. Book on (0191) 243-8210 .
The sessions are:
January 21: Signposts in the Sky with Newcastle University’s Dr Adrian Jannetta, training officer at Northumberland Astronomical Society.
January 28: Asteroids, comets and meteorites - destructors or creators? with Graham Darke, chairman of Sunderland Astronomical Society.
February 4: The Hubble Space Telescope with Gary Fildes, director of the new Kielder Observatory.
February 11: The search for Extrasolar planets; Is there anybody out there? by David Hughes, a founder of the new Luna society.
February 18: Revealing the dark side of the Universe, with Dr Pete Edwards, who manages the science and society programme at Durham University.
February 25: Written in the Stars: Astronomy v Astrology by Steve Owens, UK coordinator for the International Year of Astronomy.