A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
With exams finally over for this semester I had some spare time at hand. As you might remember I often give tours of the old Observatory to the public, and so since I had more spare time than usual, my evenings last week were quite busy. The first two tours involved undergraduates from Delft who had recently finished an introductory course in Astronomy and were visiting Leiden to get a sense of observation first hand. They were an inquisitive bunch and on both nights that they visited we had crystal clear skies – good enough to look at Jupiter and its moons which look like this:
The third tour I gave was to professionals from the medical centre, LUMC. It wasn’t a particularly large group but they certainly didn’t lack enthusiasm for space. Unfortunately though, it happened to be a windy, wet and of course cloudy night i.e. one without any chance of observation. Still I tried my best to keep them engaged with the telescopes and the history of the observatory. And they responded well by firing various questions at me such as: is the universe infinite? What is the shape of the universe? What is the temperature of space? By the end of the tour I was well impressed by their curiosity but to be honest thought they were merely being polite when they told me how much they had enjoyed the evening. But then one lady reached in to her purse and gave me this:
They said it was a gift for me. Obviously I lit up. I am no child craving presents but when you least expect appreciation it is only then that you enjoy it the most. And this was no ordinary tie; it had LUMC written on it. I have always been fascinated by doctors and medicine and so I am definitely going to treasure this one.
In other news a supernova went off last week. Supernova is an explosion that takes place when a star has accumulated too much mass on the core and can no longer withstand it. Or more simply put it is stellar death. Anyway it was accidentally discovered by a group of students at UCL in the UK. Not to be put off by this I joined some clever friends to photograph M82 (the galaxy where this occurred) for ourselves. We made use of the student telescope and here is the picture and it’s also posted on the Leiden observatory page (http://www.strw.leidenuniv.nl/):
Must watch movie #5
Going with the wet and windy theme I suggest you watch ‘The Weatherman’. This film stars Nicholas Cage who plays a weather man who although is doing well professionally struggles with his personal life. He has to constantly put up with people including his own family undermining him and treating him as a disapointment. His life reaches its lowest ebb when his father falls terminally ill. Through a series of conversations he manages to get back up on his feet and become a happier person. The film is generally dark but personally I found it hilarious. It can get deep at times and the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer engages you all the more. If you liked American beauty then you’ll enjoy this too. Its definitely a winter film for me so watch it before it starts getting warm.