Brian Cox to host live astronomy show from Jodrell Bank

20 Dec 2010

University of Manchester scientist Professor Brian Cox will be presenting a live BBC2 TV show in the New Year to help bring astronomy down to earth.

Professor Brian Cox will be hosting the event
Professor Brian Cox will be hosting the event

Professor Cox will be joined by comedian Dara O’Briain to present Stargazing Live – three nights of fascinating footage from the University’s Jodrell Bank Observatory.

The three live broadcasts, on the evenings of January 3rd-5th, hope to inspire people to look up at the wonders that fill our skies every night of the year.

Each programme is set to feature stunning images streamed live from telescopes across the globe, including the world-famous Lovell telescope, as well as from satellites hundreds of miles above the Earth’s surface.

Coming live from the control room at the Cheshire site – part of The University of Manchester – the show will give Jodrell Bank astronomers the opportunity to explain their ground-breaking work to a wide audience.

The programme will also feature Jodrell Bank’s key areas of work and expertise, including the study of the remnants of exploded stars and using the UK-wide e-MERLIN array of radio telescopes to examine the birth of planets, stars and galaxies.

Professor Cox, from the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, will act as guide, using his infectious enthusiasm for science and his trademark demonstrations to take the audience on a whistle-stop tour of our galaxy, teaching them the basics of how to identify, image and photograph the wonders they see above them.

Dara, a trained physicist, has always been interested in astronomy but has been living with an un-opened telescope in his attic for as long as he can remember. These programmes will provide the motivation he needs to finally break it out and embrace the night sky.

Dr Tim O'Brien, a Reader in the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, said: "After more than six months working on this project it's great to see it all coming together.

“We're really excited about the opportunity to showcase our work live from the Jodrell Bank Control Room.

“Astronomy has always been a subject that inspires and this programme will be a great way to encourage people of all ages to get involved."  

The event is timed to coincide with a series of three events in the sky that should be visible to amateurs and experts alike in the UK (weather permitting).

In episode one, the appearance of Jupiter in conjunction with Uranus for the first time this decade will lead us into a discussion about the planets and their place in our Solar System.

January 3rd also happens to be perihelion, the point of the year when the Earth is at its closest to the Sun. This makes it the ideal day to explain the movements of the planet around our star.

In episode two, a partial solar eclipse will allow discussion of the Sun and the stars and where they come from.

Finally in episode three, the Quadrantid Meteor Shower radiating down form the constellation Bootes and the passing of the distant Comet Hartley will allow a discussion of Meteors, Comets and Deep Space Objects.

The One Show’s roving reporter, Mark Thompson, will observe live, using his trademark ‘laser pointer’, demonstrations to show the audience at home what planets and constellations will be visible over the course of the three days and offer top tips on how to locate and photograph them.

Should cloud cover restrict visibility on any of the three nights, Professor Cox and Dara will turn to a team of star spotters located across all corners of the British Isles.

By sharing their images of the night sky, they will maximise our chances of seeing everything that the stars have to offer during the nights the programme is on air.

Notes for editors

Stargazing Live is a closed event and is not open to members of the public.

Please let the Press Office know as soon as possible if you would like to come down to Jodrell Bank on either of the days. There will be no possibility of coming down without prior warning, and every request for interviews or site visits will have to be approved by both The University of Manchester and the BBC.

Dr Tim O’Brien is available for interview before and during the three-day event.

For media enquiries please contact:

Daniel Cochlin
Media Relations Officer
The University of Manchester
0161 275 8387