At-Bristol Science Centre

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How do we search for life on Mars?

Blogging science to life

Sat 18 January 2014,

How do we search for life on Mars? In our new video, David of the Live Science Team goes to Mars Lab to find out: 

To keep up to date with all our latest videos, don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel!

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Top Tips for Urban Stargazing

Blogging science to life

Tue 7 January 2014, Lee

You might think that there is too much light pollution in Bristol to go stargazing, but actually being a city dweller needn’t stop you. Bristol has three Dark Sky Discovery Sites recognised for their stargazing potential and all are within walking distance of At-Bristol! Read on to find out where they are and how best to make the most of them with our Top Five Stargazing Tips.

Where to go:

Durdham Downs, Clifton

The Downs aren’t just for five-a-side football and jogging. This large open space, high above Avon Gorge provides great, unobstructed views of the night sky.

Leigh Woods & Ashton Court, Long Ashton

Normally the location for festivals and picnics on long summer days, why not make the most of Bristol’s biggest park during the winter months? With the sun setting so early, it doesn’t even have to be a late night.

Victoria Park, Totterdown

The nearest Dark Sky Discovery Site to the City Centre and surrounded by nice pubs if the grown-ups need supplies! Climb to the top of this hilly green space so the trees don’t spoil your view and you’ll even find benches to sit on whilst you gaze.

A little further afield, Exmoor National Park is one of only three sites in the UK that has been internationally recognised as a Dark Sky Reserve.

Clifton Suspension Bridge by night

Clifton Suspension Bridge by Joe Dunckley, used under CC licence

Top Five Stargazing Tips

  • Check the weather: You won’t see anything on a wet, cloudy night so make sure you’re efforts are not thwarted by the Great British weather. Clear, dry and cold nights are perfect conditions to admire the stars.

  • Wrap up warm: You’ll be outside and standing still so wear a warm jacket, hat and gloves. You might even want to take a flask of tea and some snacks for a midnight feast…

  • Use binoculars: You don’t need expensive telescopes to get started with stargazing. The brightest stars you can see with your eyes. For more detail, zoom in with binoculars – easier to aim and focus than a telescope. Modern binoculars are more powerful than the telescope Galileo used to discover Jupiter’s moons!

  • Take a red torch: Your eyes will adapt to the dark when you’re out stargazing – your pupils dilate to let in as much light as possible. A sudden bright light like a torch will make your pupils contract and you’ll be back to square one. If you need to read any star charts or maps then paint the end of a torch with red nail varnish – this soft red light will allow you to read and stay dark-adapted.

  • Say hello! There’s lots you can learn from other stargazers. Why not come and see a Seasonal Night Sky show in the At-Bristol Planetarium before you head out into the wild? Our Live Science Team can tell you which constellations to look for throughout the year. The Bristol Astronomical Society is a friendly bunch of local astronomers, who meet weekly and are always happy to help those just starting out.

All set? Here are a couple of online resources to help you plan a stargazing adventure:

Dark Sky Discovery Sites -

Light Pollution map -

Remember, you can always ask us your stargazing questions below, on Facebook, or on Twitter and we'll do our best to answer them.  Have fun!

Many thanks to Lee, our Planetarium Officer, for writing this blog!

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How to skate - some handy hints and tips!

Blogging science to life

Tue 31 December 2014, Written by: Nicole

It's under a week until we wave farewell to our lovely ice rink (sob!).

If you haven't taken to the ice yet, or alternatively if you want to perfect your technique for your final session, check out the pictures below from DK Superguides: Inline Skating 1996.

Start the new year with a 90s take on skating with style!

1. The A stance - a good steady stance to learn

The A stance

2. Regaining your balance - remember to lower your centre of gravity

Regaining balance

But should that fail...

3. Getting up! Steady yourself by placing your hands on your knee

Getting up!

Happy Skating!

Book your ice rink tickets

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Dancing on Ice: How do ice skaters spin? With Suzanne Shaw and Matt Evers

Blogging science to life

Mon 23 December 2013,

Ross Exton of the Live Science Team speaks to Suzanne Shaw & Matt Evers from ITV's Dancing on Ice to investigate the physics

To keep up to date with all our latest videos, don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel!

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Night Sky Guide: How to Find Orion

Blogging science to life

Thu 14 November 2013,

Where's Orion in the night sky? Here's Ross from the Live Science Team to show us how to find Betelgeuse, Sirius, and much more!

To keep up to date with all our latest videos, don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow us on Twitter!

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A Christmas Pudding Fire Tornado

Blogging science to life

Fri 6 December 2013, Heather

It just wouldn't be Christmas without setting fire to the pudding.  Here, Ross from the Live Science Team takes it a step further in Santa's Invention Workshop and creates a flaming tornado!

To keep up to date with all our latest videos, don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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What is a meteor shower? And how to spot them...

Blogging science to life

Fri 6 December 2013, Nicole

What is a meteor shower? What's the best way to watch them? Ross Exton and Lee Pullen tell you everything you need to know and give their top tips on spotting shooting stars:

To keep up to date with all our latest videos, don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel!

P.S. The Geminid meteor shower is due to peak next week, around the December 13-14th, so pop it in your diary and put your new skills to the test!

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Get crafty at After Hours...

Blogging science to life

Sat 7 December 2013, Written by: Heather

With only a few more days to go until our fantastically festive After Hours evening, we thought we'd help you get in the mood for some Christmas crafting with a little taster of what to expect on the night in Santa's Invention Workshop. Why not get hands-on and have a go at making these science-tastic tree decorations this weekend!

Light-up tree decorations

You will need:

  • Felt
  • 20cm piece of ribbon
  • Double-sided tape
  • LED bulb – you can easily find them in electronics stores or online
  • 3v cell battery (the type found watches)
  • 3 sticky foam circles
  • Strong glue or a needle and thread

What to do:

  • Dream up your unique decoration design – we recommend starting with something simple like a star, although other classic Christmas shapes work well too (trees, reindeer faces, puddings…)
  • Cut out the same shape on two pieces of felt
  • Test your LED. It will only light up when the longer of the two ‘legs’ is in contact with the positive side of the battery
  • Stick a foam pad slightly off-centre on one side of the battery
  • Slide the LED back on the battery - make sure it’s the correct way round
  • Stick the LED ‘legs’ in place using a foam pad on each side
  • Squeeze the foam pads to complete the circuit and light up the LED
  • Put your two shapes together to make a pocket, and pop the LED in the middle
  • Glue or stitch the shapes together around the edges
  • Use a hole punch or needle to thread your ribbon through the top

And voila! Your light-up decoration is ready to take pride of place on your tree this year.

If that's whet your appetite for some more Christmas creativity then our elves will be on hand on Monday evening to help you make some science-inspired stocking fillers as part of After Hours, our Christmas knees-up with a difference! Find out more and book your place here.

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How do we know what the Sun is made of?

Blogging science to life

Thu 14 November 2013,

Here's David from the Live Science Team showing us how we can use a trick of the light to find out just what the Sun is made of:

To keep up to date with all our latest videos, don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow us on Twitter!

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Inprofood: 'chewing the fat' with Bristol's secondary schools

Blogging science to life

Thu 14 November 2013,

Throughout October members of our Formal Learning Team took part in an EU-funded project to work in local schools, facilitating a discussion game called PlayDecide, about healthy eating and obesity. The team worked with 83 pupils aged 12 - 16 from St Mary Redcliffe & Temple School in Bristol city centre, Backwell School, and St Katherine’s School in Pill. The aim of the game was to raise awareness of the issues surrounding these controversial topics, and to gather the opinions of the participants to feed them back to the EU, informing their future policy discussions.

A lively debate as part of the project

Thanks to the funded nature of the project we were able to offer this opportunity to schools for free, which ties closely to our mission to make science accessible for all.

The project is taking place all over Europe, and to date over 1000 students have participated. The game is running in just two locations in the UK, Bristol and Newcastle, where the game is being run by the Centre for Life. Participation in this game has given Bristol and Newcastle students the chance to represent the voices of the young people of the UK in EU parliament. 

It was really great to hear the opinions of the students discussed so freely, and it was brilliant to watch them inform and inspire each other with their ideas.

The groups discussed some particularly interesting ideas such as, ‘Why can’t you stop your own son over-eating?’, the influence of media pressure on people’s perceptions of bodies, and the feeling that food production sometimes wasn’t very a transparent process and if people really knew how foods were made it would put them off eating them.

A lively whole-class debate as part of the project

View the outcome of this international project's findings here.

We look forward to being able to work on other such projects in the future!

 Many thanks to Becky for writing this blog!

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