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  1. Sarah Saunders @SSaundersITV

Igniting imaginations, schoolchildren react to historic space launch

Astronaut Major Tim Peake who took off for the International Space Station today says he's landed his dream job and he wants to inspire the next generation of space explorers. Spellbound schoolchildren from across Kent came together at Wellesley House School in Broadstairs to watch the live coverage. Sarah Saunders went along and spoke to children and science teacher Kerry Sabin-Dawson.

Watch full package below - starting with the astronomical reaction of local school children.


Kent probe aims to reach the Moon

The project will cost £3bn Credit: ITV

A financier from Kent is spearheading an ambitious project to send an unmanned probe to the Moon.

David Iron from Faversham is hoping to raise most of the £3bn needed from the public - by offering them a chance to be part of a timecapsule storing photographs and even strands of their hair.

Lunar launch - Kent mission to the Moon

A financier from Kent is spearheading what could be one of the most scientifically-important missions ever flown to the Moon.

David Iron from Faversham has the backing of some of the UK's leading scientists for a project that would see an unmanned probe land on the moon.

What makes the mission unique though is that it may turn out to be the most ambitious crowdfunded project ever attempted and be funded entirely by public donations.

The pitch - people will be able to have their own DNA launched into Space.

Mr Iron will be giving a talk about Lunar Mission One to The Faversham Society on Friday January 9th.

He is involved with a 'kickstarting' website


Lettuce set to be first life on Mars by 2018

A team of student researchers have plans to put the first life on Mars by 2018 - in the form of a humble lettuce.

The student project, called Lettuce on Mars, is looking to send a small greenhouse to Mars in which lettuce will be grown using the atmosphere and sunlight on Mars.

The brains behind lettuce on Mars Credit: Southampton University

To live on other planets we need to grow food there. No-one has ever actually done this and we intend to be the first. This plan is both technically feasible and incredibly ambitious in its scope, for we will be bringing the first complex life to another planet.

Growing plants on other planets is something that needs to be done, and will lead to a wealth of research and industrial opportunities that our plan aims to bring to the University of Southampton."

– Project leader Suzanna Lucarotti
Students from the University of Southampton are aiming to put the first life on Mars. Credit: Southampton University

The researchers decided to plant lettuce, although it's not the most nutritiously rich plant, to study its growth on Mars.

It will open the doors for richer plants, such as tomatoes and strawberries, to be transported and cultivated on a foreign planet.

Twitter sensation, astronaut Chris Hadfield, tells Fred and Sangeeta about his new book

He became a global star - sharing stunning images of earth - from space. And, today, Chris Hadfield was in the region, launching his new book.

The astronaut took photos from the International Space Station - and put them on Twitter last year.

We caught up with Chris Hadfield and asked him what it was like looking down to Earth from space!

Scientists lead the way in measuring distances in space

The galaxy Credit: Press Association

A new way of measuring precise distances to galaxies tens of millions of light years away has been developed by scientists from the University of Southampton. Dr Sebastian Hoenig has created the method which is similar to what land surveyors use on earth, by measuring the physical and angular, or "apparent", size of a standard ruler in the galaxy, to calibrate the distance from this information. The research,which is published in the journal Nature, was used to identify the accurate distance of the nearby NGC 4151 galaxy, which wasn't previously available. The galaxy NGC 4151, which is dubbed the Eye of Sauron by astronomers for its similarity to the film depiction of the eye of the character in The Lord Of The Rings, is important for accurately measuring black hole masses. Recently reported distances range from 4 to 29 megaparsecs, but using this new method the researchers calculated the distance of 19 megaparsecs to the supermassive black hole.

One of the key findings is that the distance determined in this new fashion is quite precise - with only about 10% uncertainty. In fact, if the current result for NGC 4151 holds for other objects, it can potentially beat any other current methods to reach the same precision to determine distances for remote galaxies directly based on simple geometrical principles. Moreover, it can be readily used on many more sources than the current most precise method. Such distances are key in pinning down the cosmological parameters that characterise our universe or for accurately measuring black hole masses. Indeed, NGC 4151 is a crucial anchor to calibrate various techniques to estimate black hole masses. Our new distance implies that these masses may have been systematically underestimated by 40%.

– Dr Hoenig, University of Southampton

A university spokesman explained that the method involves measuring the dust rings that form around supermassive black holes. The hot dust forms a ring around the supermassive black hole and emits infrared radiation, which the researchers used as the ruler. However, the apparent size of this ring is so small that the observations were carried out using infrared interferometry to combine WM Keck Observatory's twin 10m telescopes, to achieve the resolution power of an 85m telescope. To measure the physical size of the dusty ring, the researchers measured the time delay between the emission of light from very close to the black hole and the infrared emission. This delay is the distance the light has to travel (at the speed-of-light) from close to the black hole out to the hot dust. By combining this physical size of the dust ring with the apparent size measured with the data from the Keck interferometer, the researchers were able to determine a distance to the galaxy NGC 4151. Dr Hoenig, together with colleagues in Denmark and Japan, is currently setting up a new programme to extend their work to establish precise distances to a dozen galaxies in this new way and use them to constrain cosmological parameters to within a few per cent. In combination with other measurements, this will provide a better understanding of the history of expansion of our universe.

Timelapse video offers guided tour around UK airspace

The skies above the UK have been brought to life like never before in a timelapse video capturing a day of air traffic in less than three minutes.

Created from actual radar data showing over 7,000 flights, the video graphically illustrates the daily task facing air traffic controllers and the airspace features that help make it all work.

Created by air traffic management company, NATS, the video takes viewers on a unique tour of some of the key features of UK airspace – from the four holding stacks over London and the military training zones above Wales, to the helicopters delivering people and vital supplies to the North Sea oil and gas rigs.

It finishes with an overview of the structure of UK airspace, highlighting the major air routes and showing how this ‘invisible infrastructure’ helps underpin the entire operation.

Matt Mills, NATS Head of Digital Communications, said:

We’ve made data visualisations in the past, but we wanted to now take people on a deeper journey into what makes UK airspace work and some of its important features.

Airspace might be the invisible infrastructure, but it is every bit as important as the airports and runways on the ground.

– Matt Mills
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