Brian and co-host Liz Bon­nin on why the new se­ries of Stargaz­ing Live will give us the best views yet

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - NEWS -

T his year’s se­ries of Stargaz­ing Live, which will air on three con­sec­u­tive nights on BBC2 from March 28, is the sev­enth in as many years. Brian will present the show with co-hosts Dara Ó Bri­ain and Liz Bon­nin, but they will not be at their reg­u­lar home at Jo­drell Bank Ob­ser­va­tory in north-west Eng­land. In­stead they’re head­ing to Aus­tralia this year, where they’ll be view­ing the south­ern hemi­sphere skies.

The show’s tem­po­rary new home will be a re­mote moun­tain top in New South Wales, the site of the world-fa­mous Sid­ing Spring Ob­ser­va­tory, which boasts over 50 tele­scopes in­clud­ing Aus­tralia’s largest. The night skies prom­ise to be spec­tac­u­lar, and Brian’s par­tic­u­larly ex­cited by the un­beat­able view the team is go­ing to have of Saturn. Of course, the planet is of­ten vis­i­ble from the North­ern Hemi­sphere, but Stargaz­ing Live will be able to show it in all its mag­nif­i­cence. ‘There’s no doubt that Saturn is end­lessly fas­ci­nat­ing,’ says Brian. ‘Af­ter all, it has that clas­sic shape with its rings that chil­dren so love to draw. Luck­ily for us, we’re go­ing to be able to show the very best view of those rings, as they’ll be an­gled to­wards us in Aus­tralia in just the right way. And bet­ter still, the lack of light from the New Moon means Saturn will ap­pear to be much brighter.’

In past se­ries, Stargaz­ing Live has cov­ered in­fre­quent events such as eclipses and the an­tics of Tim Peake on the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion, but this time Brian is de­lighted that the show is go­ing back to its roots. ‘I want us to get back to do­ing some good, ba­sic, ama­teur as­tron­omy and to en­thuse peo­ple,’ he says. ‘One of the prob­lems of pre­sent­ing the show from Jo­drell Bank is that it’s of­ten rain­ing and you can’t see a thing through a tele­scope! How­ever, in Aus­tralia we’re al­most guar­an­teed clear views of the skies.’

For Liz Bon­nin, bet­ter known as a wildlife pre­sen­ter, the mys­ter­ies of the uni­verse are as fas­ci­nat­ing as those of the nat­u­ral world. ‘I do sus­pect it won’t be long be­fore we dis­cover early life forms on Mars from mil­lions of years ago,’ she says. ‘There are just too many sim­i­lar­i­ties to Earth. ’

The team is also go­ing to ask view­ers to help solve the mys­tery of ‘Planet Nine’. Some scientists have sug­gested that our So­lar Sys­tem has a ninth planet on its outer edges, the grav­i­ta­tional ef­fects of which seem to be felt for mil­lions of miles. But the planet it­self – if it ex­ists – has yet to be spot­ted, and Stargaz­ing view­ers will be di­rected to a web­site, zooni­, where they can help search pages of vis­ual data gath­ered by tele­scopes. ‘Es­sen­tially, we’ll be ask­ing peo­ple to look for a dot that moves,’ says Brian. It’s his dream that the planet is found by a child and then named af­ter them. ‘I’d love it if it ended up be­ing called Planet Kevin!’

Sid­ing Spring Ob­ser­va­tory and (in­set) Liz Bon­nin

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