As you may have seen across our social media platforms, we are currently advertising our Astro Camps. So it may not come as a surprise, that most of my time lately has been spent on preparing for these camps. The first of which, our Nebula Camp, aimed at 10-12 years old is due to start in just under two weeks.

If you know anyone who has any interest in anything space related make sure to tell them about it! We will also be running two other camps, the Red Giant Camp (12-15 years old) and the Supernova Camp (16-18 years old). We’re all very excited at the LOFAR team to run these camps, it’s a great opportunity for me to give back a little. The hope is to spark interest in the field of astrophysics, and to provide some form of productive entertainment during the pandemic!

Working with three different age groups will be very interesting, as each will have different expectations for the camp, which we endeavour to fulfill to the best of our ability. For me, it feels great to be running these camps, as the defining moment when I started considering astrophysics as a potential path was when I myself attended a space camp in a french observatory. Maybe with a bit of luck we can do the same for a few of the children who will attend our camps!

Those of you reading this who have some astrophysics knowledge probably realised what our camps are named after: Stellar Evolution. So, first off is the Nebula Camp, which in some cases is the starting point for stars, these form out of large clouds of gas and dust which gravitationally collapse, leading to star formation! These Nebulae can sometimes provide jaw dropping images such as the Helix Nebula below:

Helix Nebula – fantastic sight

Next up we have the Red Giant Camp, this a one of the stages of evolution of a star, not all stars will go through this stage but main sequence stars will. These stars form when the hydrogen burning process ends in the core and the helium-burning process begins. Our very own Sun will one day become a Red Giant – but don’t worry we will be gone long long before as this is estimated to be in about 5 billion years. 

Sun compared to Red Giants

And finally we have The Supernova Camp (16-18 years old). You guessed it, it’s one of the last steps in stellar evolution, you could call it “the last hurrah” of a dying star, whereby it goes out with a fantastic bang. A supernova is the biggest explosion that humans have ever seen (and probably will ever see). Each blast is the extremely bright, super-powerful explosion of a star. Supernovae leave behind neutron stars or black holes depending on the initial size of the star. 

Supernova remnant Cassiopeia A

Check back next week to hear from Amy!

Blog post written by NathanSimoncini.