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New constellations, happy birthday Kristian Birkeland, ‘There once was a chemist from Bath…’

Reach for the stars: constellation Serena (Courtesy: University of Birmingham)

Reach for the stars: constellation Serena (Courtesy: University of Birmingham)

By Hamish Johnston

Astronomers at the University of Birmingham have dreamt-up a set of modern constellations in a bid to inspire young people to take an interest in the cosmos. The constellations are related to eight admirable people including J K Rowling, Usain Bolt, Malala Yousafzai, David Attenborough, Mo Farah and Michael Bond. But my favourite is the tennis racquet shaped constellation Serena, named after Serena Williams.

Elsewhere in the heavens, Wednesday marked the 150th birthday of Kristian Birkeland, the Norwegian scientist who first explained the physics of the Northern Lights. After several expeditions to the Arctic to study the lights, Birkeland built a model of the Earth and its magnetic field in the lab to verify his theory. He died in 1917 and his ideas we ignored and even ridiculed until 1960s, when satellite measurements confirmed his description of the outer atmosphere. You can read more about Birkeland in Aurora: In Search of the Northern Lights by plasma physicist Melanie Windridge.

Forget about dancing your PhD, the latest trend in artistic expression is to compose a Limerick based on your research topic – at least at the University of Bath’s Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies. Students have been composing poems and uploading them to twitter. Some are very clever and you can enjoy reading them all at #PhDlimerick.

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