If you have some free time this weekend, why not tune into an astronomy broadcast showing astronomers investigating the distant ice giant planet Uranus? Experts will be using a ground-based telescope to observe the atmosphere of this lesser-studied planet, located 1.9 billion miles away, and to build out the most detailed infrared map of it to date.
The Royal Astronomical Society is hosting a three-day event livestreaming observations of Uranus using the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Mauna Kea in Hawai’i. The observations, led by Leicester Ph.D. student Emma Thomas, are to investigate the mysterious infrared auroras of the planet.
“Over these three days of observations, we will be building up the most detailed infrared map of Uranus that we have ever completed (a full 360 degrees longitude), and by doing this we hope to detect and fully map the southern infrared aurora for the first time ever,” Thomas said. “My area of research is to investigate and fully map the infrared aurorae at Uranus, which is done by analyzing spectra (looking at the different wavelengths of light received from Uranus) from telescopes such as IRTF, Keck (also on Hawai’i), and the Very Large Telescope in Chile.
“The aurora of Uranus has been a long-standing mystery since the first detection of near-infrared emissions back in 1993, but in the last four years we have begun to take the first steps in understanding the weird and wonderful aurorae we see at Uranus.”
The livestream will include commentary on Uranus from various experts from around the UK and from the Japanese space agency (JAXA). It is running from Friday, October 8 to Sunday, October 10, from 4 a.m. ET (1 a.m. PT) to 11:55 a.m. ET (8:55 a.m. PT) on each day.
You can tune in either using the video link at the top of this page or by heading to the RAS’s YouTube channel. And if that’s too early for you then don’t worry — the streams will be made available at the end of each session so you can catch up with them later.
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