A mobile phonephone
A pair of glasses
Pencils, a pencil sharpener and eraser
A marker and a pair of scissors

Planet Saturn

Welcome to The Earth and Beyond

Hello, my name is Tim O’Brien. I’m an astronomer working at The University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Observatory. As an astronomer my job is to try and understand how the universe works and my main interest is why some stars explode – more about this later! I also get to visit lots of schools and share amazing facts with children and teachers about the Sun, Earth and Moon, the stars and planets, and the Universe as we know it! Now, in the Children’s University, I can share the excitement with you. I hope you enjoy the journey!

Exploding stars

You may know the names of some patterns of stars (called constellations) such as Orion or the Great Bear. Every now and again a new star appears amongst these well-known patterns. Ancient people used to think these were stars being born. We now know they’re old stars which are exploding!

This picture shows Orion the Hunter and Taurus the Bull with the position of an exploded star known as the Crab Nebula. This was first spotted by astronomers in China in the year 1054.

We’re all made of stars

Understanding why stars explode is very important because most of the chemical elements (carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and so on) were made inside stars and are spread out into space when they explode.

Billions of years ago the Sun, Earth and the other planets formed out of the leftovers from one of these gigantic explosions. Amazingly we’re all made of stuff that was created inside a star!

Learn about astronomy

Exploding stars is just one example of why astronomy is important and fun. I hope you enjoy using this website and find it helpful in understanding the Earth and Beyond section of your schoolwork.

There’s also lots of other useful information, including what you can see in the sky each month, the size of the Universe and more about the work we do as astronomers at Jodrell Bank. There’s even a chance to ask a question and get an answer from one of the astronomers at The University of Manchester.

Good luck with your studies!

Constellation picture from Stellarium by Fabien Chereau.