31 August 2014

‘Hot or Not?’ Trinity Astrophysicists Ask Public to Rank Sunspots

‘Citizen Science’ project launched internationally to characterise sunspot complexity and learn more about solar storm phenomena.

Dublin, June 13th, 2014 – ‘Sunspots’ and ‘solar storms’ are the feature of an ambitious project being launched internationally by astrophysicists at Trinity College Dublin today. Members of the public will work as part of a global team to better understand sunspot and solar storm phenomena and their impacts on Earth. They will do this by ‘rating’ the relative complexity of each sunspot image they see on the Sunspotter website, based on its size, shape and arrangement of ‘magnetic blobs’.

After stimulating over 300,000 ‘Citizen Science’ mouse clicks from over 1,600 volunteers since the Sunspotter website was launched in Ireland in February, the astrophysicists are releasing a new set of over 250,000 sunspot images for people to work through. Each of the 13,000 images released in February was classified more than 50 times in a single month. Due to the success of the first phase, and to the staggering amount of data still to work through, the team hopes people from across the globe will now get involved.

Solar flare expert and Irish Research Council Research Fellow in Trinity’s Astrophysics Research Group in the School of Physics, Dr Paul Higgins, is the lead scientist on the project. He said: “The reason we cannot just use computers to classify all of this data is that ‘complexity’ is not easily quantifiable. Humans can easily compare two objects, like a skateboard and a lorry and decide, ‘this one is more complex’, but this is beyond current computer software. However, the data we collect from Sunspotter volunteers may allow us to train a computer algorithm to measure sunspot complexity in the near future.”

Sunspotter currently uses an efficient algorithm, called ‘Elo’ to determine the best way to rank sunspot images by their complexity. Elo was also featured in the Oscar-winning film ‘The Social Network’ as college students ranked their peers on their looks. “With Sunspotter, people are literally playing a game of ‘Hot or Not’ with sunspots,” added Dr Higgins.

This project is part of the ‘Zooniverse’, a web portal devoted to Citizen Science projects and which has over 1,000,000 volunteers contributing to new cutting-edge science every day. Michael Parrish is the lead developer of Sunspotter. He added: “The ‘Elo’ algorithm is used to rapidly sort sunspots as Sunspotter volunteers make their classifications by giving each one a score.”

After the Irish launch in February, the team achieved a ‘true’ measure of complexity for sunspots, for the first time ever. With the new set of images, the team hopes to measure ‘complexity evolution’ within individual sunspots as they are born, erupt, and slowly decay.

The overall goal is to discover a physical connection between patterns of sunspot evolution, complexity, and eruptions. As well as producing the beautiful Aurora Borealis and Australis, better known as the Northern and Southern Lights, solar eruptions disrupt GPS, damage satellites and endanger astronauts; if the Apollo 16 and 17 astronauts had left for the Moon a bit earlier or later, they would have been blasted by radiation from an intense solar storm.

Sunspotter has been designed so that anyone, from kids to grandparents, can help the team improve forecasts of solar eruptions. You can be among the first to contribute by logging on to from June 13 to indicate which sunspots you think are complex, and which are simple.

“Our team has put a lot of effort into directly engaging the public in this project. We are running a live launch event at Fair Oaks Public Library in an underserved area of the SF Bay Area in California. We hope that Sunspotter will spark an interest in science for people who see it as a job for geniuses – and who have certainly never considered that they could contribute to science themselves,” concluded Dr Higgins, who is currently working as a visiting researcher at the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in California.

Sunspotter website

From melting ice cream to hypergravity experiments at ESA

It started with a bowl of ice cream and ended with a hypergravity experiment at one of ESA’s world-leading research establishments. Two high-school students captured time-lapse movies of ice cubes melting in different gravitational forces as part of their project, “A Place in Space.”

Learn more on the ESA website

Training Opportunity for Teachers this Summer in Spain organised by REVA

Once again the educational network connected with the cities where there is industry related to the Ariane launcher  is organising a training course for European secondary teachers in the summer break.


The next REVA Seminar, which is dedicated to space transportation, in particular propulsion, will be held in Seville (Spain / Andalusia) on July 9th, 10th and 11th, 2014.

The programme will include lectures, a round-table, a workshop and visits to cover all aspects of the theme. Most meetings will take place in the Airtbus facilities, so a rather inspiring location.

Please see here the link to the programme:

Teachers interested will need to pay their flight and a fee of 75 € which covers the registration and hotel.

Application form is available here:

Please note that no more than 2-3 teachers per country can be accepted.


Information about the REVA Seminar (program, practical information, registration form) will be available on the REVA web site:

Target audience

Mainly: mathematic, sciences, physics and language teachers from middle and high schools (“colleges” and “lycées”)
Upcoming teachers at the last level of their studies
And scientific coaches


Arrival July 8 – Departure July 11 2013


CVA offers an all-inclusive formula that includes:

A three-day training on space transportation (maximum 30 participants) with conferences, workshop, visits and  documentation.  The  conferences  and  the  workshop will  be presented  in English,  in French or exceptionally, this year- in Spanish, with simultaneous translation into the two other languages,

Transportation during the stay, for the visits,

Accommodation from 8 to 11 July 2013 (3 nights) including breakfast at Hotel,

Lunches, coffee breaks, receptions.

(Evening meals are to be paid for by the participants as well as extra nights and breakfasts)

To be mentioned that participating in this seminar entitles the status of an alumnus of the CVA which allows to participate once in a trip organized by the CVA in Guyana, to a special rate.

Registration deadline

As soon as possible, and no later than May 29th 2014.

To be noticed: if the number of 15 participants is not reached, then the CVA reserves the right to cancel the
seminar. In this case, the registration fees will be refunded.


Each participant should indicate his/her arrival and departure dates on the registration form. We handle reservations.
Accommodation at Hotel is offered from 8 to 11 July to Seminar participants. 

Accommodation fees will not be paid if participants choose to stay in a different hotel than the one selected by REVA.


Participants will stay in a hotel selected by REVA. The coordinates of the hotel will be later communicated.

Registration form and financial contribution

To confirm your registration, the form attached must be completed and returned to the address indicated below, as soon as possible, and no later than May 29th, 2014.

Participation fees, amounting to 75 € (or 400 € for participants of non-member cities of the CVA) are required when registering. They should be paid in preference by bank transfer (see CVA bank data on registration form) or by check payable to the CVA. Registration will be confirmed upon receipt of payment.

If a participant cancels his/her participation after May 29th, registration fees will not be refunded.

If a participant cancels his/her participation after June 30, he/she commits to pay 400 € corresponding to the expenses already incurred at that date (hotel, transportation, simultaneous translation).


Feel free to contact us for any complementary information and thank you to send your registration form and confirmation of payment to the following e-mail address: to the attention of the REVA Secretariat.

2014 ESERO Ireland – CEIA CanSat competition winners announced

A rocket launch at the CanSat Final, held in Birr Castle

March 2014 – Secondary school students from Crescent College Comprehensive in Limerick  were today announced as winners of the 2014 ESERO Ireland – CEIA CanSat competition at  Birr Castle, Co. Offaly. The team will now go on to represent Ireland at the European CanSat final in Andoya, Norway in June of this year.

Six teams from schools across Ireland took part in this unique space project to create a CanSat – a simulation of a real satellite which fits into the volume of a soft drinks can. The teams have been working tirelessly since October with mentors from Dublin Institute of Technology, Cork Institute of Technology and Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and industry partners to bring their CanSat from design stage to lift off.

Having selected the missions, tested and integrated the components, teams today launched their CanSats using a quadcopter and a rocket (built by Rocketry Ireland), which after release at high altitudes, returned to Earth safely using a parachute.  For the Primary Mission, the CanSat captured air temperature and atmospheric pressure data from its environment using sensors as it ascended and descended.  It then transmitted the data wirelessly to the ground-station – a laptop.  Teams also undertook Secondary Missions such as using a GPS module to track the CanSat position, measuring wind shear using a custom built anemometer, measuring rotation and acceleration in 3 dimensions, measuring air humidity and comparing the thermal insulating properties of different surfaces and materials with a view to designing high-altitude clothing.  The teams then analysed the data and presented their findings to a panel of judges.

Speaking at the final, CanSat competition partner, Eamon Connolly of CEIA said, “CanSat is unique in that it offers transition year students and teachers the chance to conduct a real science experiment and the standard of work on display here today is testament to all involved. It is fantastic to see how the teams have worked together at every stage of the process – designing the CanSat, selecting its mission, integrating the components, testing, preparing for launch, receiving the data on the ground and then analysing and presenting the data to the judges here today.”

Irish students have achieved notable success in the European CanSat competition, run by the European Space Agency (ESA).  Last year, the winners of the national CanSat competition, a team of nine students from Colaiste an Phiarsaigh in Glanmire, Cork, went on to achieve second place at the European CanSat final in the Netherlands, where their CanSat was launched by rocket to an altitude of 1km.

CanSat is a joint collaboration between ESERO Ireland (European Space Education Resource Office) and Cork Electronics Industry Association (, and is co-funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme. All missions were reviewed and evaluated by a judging panel that included Neil Murray from ESA, Stephanie O’Neill, ESERO Ireland and Niall Smith from Cork Institute of Technology and Blackrock Castle Observatory.

Stephanie O’Neill, ESERO Ireland Manager, Science Foundation Ireland, said “The CanSat competition offers hands on practical experience of the possibilities of space and exploration.  ESERO Ireland’s ambition, with the assistance of the European Space Agency, is to engage secondary school students in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects by participating in projects such as CanSat and thus realising the accessibility of STEM careers, including the space sector, in Ireland and abroad. There are tangible benefits to participating in the CanSat competition. Students are developing core skills required by the numerous Irish companies currently thriving in the space sector. The interest in the competition from schools this year is indicative of the growing national interest in STEM subject initiatives and careers nationwide.  I congratulate all the teams on taking part and I wish the team from Crescent College Comprehensive the best of luck as they represent Ireland at the European final in Andoya.”

For further information, please contact:

David Callaghan – Edelman 01 678 9333 / 087 938 8880

Rockets, Balloons and Snow Castles

Eighty-five students have taken part in a training week at the SSC Esrange Space Centre in Kiruna, Sweden. It is from there that they will launch their experiments on high-altitude balloons and sounding rockets later this year and next.

The training week took place between 3-7 March 2014. It was an intensive week that gave the students everything they needed to know in order to design and build successful experiments.

Find out more on the ESA Website

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