Samuel Jackson

Samuel Jackson

I am a PhD student at The Open University, studying the brightness variations of Near-Earth Asteroids to help determine their surface properties.

Location Milton Keynes, United Kingdom


  • @LeslyeSlater I'm currently the primary user of PIRATE working towards introducing new capabilities for it (asteroid tracking), and am involved with the maintenance and general operations of the telescope. :)

  • We have a scheduler where people submit their observations. Depending on user priority, availability of the target, and other factors the scheduler works out which observations to submit to the telescope each night.

    For students in certain modules (e.g. SXPS288 at the OU) it is as simple as logging on to a website where they can take control of the...

  • Quite possibly! From a philisophical standpoint I prefer this one as it would provide a mechanism for the start of the big bang!

  • @PadraicMoran It does pose a unique problem for us all. It will be interesting to see how/if we manage to work with industry to mitigate these problems.

  • @PadraicMoran Unfortunately these things happen in old age ;)

  • In order to get accurate measurements we require errors of around 0.1% or less. Hence high precision techniques and instruments are required!

  • I certainly catch myself spiralling into a philosophical black hole often. Then I just have to remind myself of all the work I have to complete by the end of the week and suddenly the problems of the universe become a secondary consideration again. :')

  • Unfortunately I fear we will be the hostile ones in any encounter.

  • I sincerely hope that things improve for all of you suffering with the fires.

  • We don't assume that it can only form in this way, however due to it only being observed to form this way so far it makes sense to divert our limited resources to areas we know that life will likely form rather than speculative observations of all types of systems.

  • In fact a new method was recently used by researchers at the OU to detect three new exoplanets! More information here:

  • It certainly gets tested regularly! A lot of caffeinated drinks helps soothe the mind enough to deal with it however! ;)

  • It definitely should be visible by the naked eye. Unfortunately I doubt any amateur telescopes would be able to pick out any detail like the large professional telescopes can.

  • Unfortunately we can't do this in a lab on Earth as the gravitational field of the Earth would interfere with the dynamics of the cloud collapse!

  • @LeslyeSlater I'm not entirely sure, however my assumption would be that the death of the star would be energetic enough to remove the outer planets from the system (either by destruction or their loss from the system due to the lower mass of the star as you suggest).

    I certainly wouldn't expect to see planets left in these systems!

  • The interpretation posted by @İbrahimAtakanKubilay is correct. See my comment here for further explanation:

  • It's perfectly reasonable to assume that other life may be able to form and thrive in different environments. However, due to the limitations of where life can form on Earth being our only example it makes sense to restrict our current searches (which have very limited resources) to those areas we know will likely contain life rather than speculating where...

  • ARROW is available to use in some of our undergraduate modules (e.g. SXPS288):

  • @HelenB Unfortunately we know next to nothing about their surfaces, we just have to speculate based on what we think the conditions would be like on the planet.

  • This forum discussion helps break things down to hopefully answer your question:

  • @StephenHowells The area it is being put in is not a standard orbit (it will be located in what we call L2) which is an unstable orbit anyway (requires fuel to keep it there). This means that eventually JWST will drift away from other objects located there.

    Unfortunately throwing them into the Sun would require so much extra fuel that the original mission...

  • @LeslyeSlater The latter, it must have formed after enough supernovae events in order to contain the required concentrations of heavy elements as you suggest. :)

  • They are artists impressions of what they may look like based on their observed properties (distance from their star, etc).

  • We commonly think of asteroids of being made up of rocky materials and metals, whereas comets are thought to be mainly made up of ice and rocky material. We don't commonly see ices in asteroids.

    However, the lines drawn between the two are becoming increasingly blurred with more observations (e.g. 'Active Asteroids').

  • The one I was taught was 'My Very Easy Mnemonic Just Speeds Up Naming (Planets)', however younger me did not like the confusion that 'Mnemonic' causes - stupid silent letters. :)

  • This table may help approximately illustrate some of the timescales involved:

  • From what I know about asteroids I can tell you that almost all asteroids are irregularly shaped, however Ceres is rounded and that is around 1000km in diameter. The answer lies within the concept of 'Hydrostatic Equilibrium' which is too complex to go into detail here, however I encourage further reading if you're interested! :)

  • They can form in various inclinations. For example, the planetary disk of the Sun is inclined around 60 degrees to the galactic plane.

  • Yes that's correct.

  • Tripods certainly help massively (just not if they're from 'the war of the worlds')!

  • Some astronomers spend their entire careers studying dust!

  • Then spread that out over the number of star systems that are out there and that probability starts to become more palatable. The universe is a horrendously large place. :)

  • There are gravitational interactions between different galaxies.

  • Billions of billions of years, so no need to worry about it quite yet! :)

  • Yes it will essentially be too far spread out due to the expansion of the universe to allow new stars to form.

  • The three spatial dimensions aren't the only dimensions in our Universe, however. Time is the fourth dimension in our universe! :)

  • @PadraicMoran From what I can find online it appears to be credited to Roger Cotes in 1714!

  • @MicLaird Any dust near enough to get heated up enough to observe this excess would have to be in orbit due to proximity.

  • Very happy to see so many people have enjoyed the course! Well done to everyone for engaging with the course so much. Many questions posed by you all have helped me broaden my own understanding in the process of finding the answers and articles you seek!

  • Reminds me of one of my favourite quotes:

    “Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”

    ― Arthur C. Clarke

  • @MicLaird I think this calls for a FutureLearn course on bees!