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Exploring the Arctic from space

Ruth Howells20 January 2012

The first Lunch Hour Lecture of the new term was held on 17 January – the 100th anniversary of Captain Scott and his team of explorers reaching the South Pole. So the topic of scientific exploration and measurement in the polar regions is an apt one.

In a busy Darwin Lecture Theatre, an audience of all ages opened their lunchboxes and poised themselves to listen to the day’s speaker, Dr Katharine Giles from the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM), part of UCL Earth Sciences.

Katharine’s lecture was about understanding the physical processes taking place in the polar regions by using increasingly sophisticated satellites. Her main area of research is measuring the changes in sea ice cover in these regions.

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Photons, spacecraft, atomic clocks and Einstein

Clare S Ryan31 October 2011

According to Professor Marek Ziebart, who gave last Thursday’s Lunch Hour Lecture, ‘Photons, spacecraft, atomic clocks and Einstein – fundamental physics in the space environment’, if it wasn’t for Einstein’s theory of relativity GPS systems would have about an 11km margin of error per day. That’s the difference between central London and Croydon – which wouldn’t be much good for locating the nearest coffee shop.

Professor Ziebart’s lecture was about how satellites – which allow technology such as mobile phones – GPS and earth surface modelling hinge upon theories that Einstein formulated more than 100 years ago.

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Is there liquid water on Mars?

Clare S Ryan13 September 2011

Since astronomers first glimpsed the surface of Mars through telescopes in the late 1900s, scientists have been fascinated by the idea that water – and along with it, the possibility of life – exists there. Dr Peter Grindrod (UCL Earth Sciences) gave this year’s Halstead Lecture at the British Science Festival to take the scientifically inclined on a whistle stop tour, complete with stunning images, of how our understanding of water on this mysterious planet has developed in the past 150 years.

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