University of Leicester student is one of only eight in the world to win astronomy competition

Posted by ap507 at Mar 16, 2016 12:37 PM |
Department of Physics and Astronomy postgraduate is only UK winner in European Southern Observatories’ social media competition

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 16 March 2016

Download a photograph of Jane MacArthur from:

Image of University of Leicester PhD student Jane MacArthur should be credited to Geoffrey Notkin. This was taken at the VLA (Very Large Array) radio telescope in New Mexico, used as a filming location in the film “Contact”.

Caption: Image shows Jane MacArthur, from the University of Leicester, at the VLA radio telescope in New Mexico. Image: Geoffrey Notkin

A University of Leicester student is one of only eight people in the world – and the only one in the UK – to win a place to visit one the world’s most advanced telescopes, travel to the most arid desert in the world – and sleep where James Bond did!

Second year postgraduate research student Jane MacArthur at the University of Leicester Space Research Centre has won an international social media competition to #MeetESO at the European Southern Observatories (ESO) in the Atacama Desert, Chile.  Jane’s prize is 5 days from Santiago to visit the Very Large Telescope, the world's most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), the largest ground-based astronomical project in existence.

She will witness the transit of Mercury, a phenomenon that happens every few years, and will meet the astronomers working at ESO and ALMA, see where they work and how they live in the most arid desert in the world or high up on the Chajnantor Plateau, at 5000 metres above sea level.

As part of the trip, winners will stay in the Paranal Residencia, which was used as a filming location in the James Bond film “Quantum of Solace”.

Jane, a former student of City of Norwich School, Norfolk, said: “I am ecstatic to have received an invitation from ESO and looking forward to this amazing opportunity. I am grateful to the University of Leicester Space Research Centre for supporting me.”

“I worked hard throughout my campaign, trying to come up with novel ideas and engaging content, such as #MyTop10 ESO images, and haikus. Over 70 supporters provided personalised endorsements (even in different languages!), and hundreds more engaged with and retweeted my posts, from all over the world. Many of them I don’t know or have not met in real life, and I am very grateful to all of them.”

Jane has put together a substantial blog post, explaining the #MeetESO competition and embedding highlights from Twitter and Facebook. This can be found at:

Jane added: “During the trip we will live-tweet and broadcast as much as possible of what we do via our social media networks, which people can follow on #MeetESO.  I am particularly keen to promote the Mercury Transit as it will be possible to see it in the UK if you have the right solar viewing equipment. There is increased interest in space with astronaut Tim Peake on board the International Space Station (who won't be able to see the transit!), and it will be a great astronomical event for the public to engage with.”

Further information and Mercury Transit events can be found here.

At Leicester, Jane is studying martian meteorites and Stardust comet samples with Professor John Bridges and Dr. Steve Baker, both from the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Professor Michael Branney from the Department of Geology. The meteorite is made up of martian regolith and may tell us more about the possible role of water on the surface of Mars.

Professor Bridges said: “Jane has done a lot to harness social media in new ways and communicate to the wider world the different types of planetary science we do at Leicester. The transit of Mercury ties in with the upcoming Mercury mission work Leicester is involved with.”

Jane recently returned to her former school in Norwich as part of an expert Q&A panel for their ARISS (amateur radio to the International Space Station) call with British ESA astronaut Tim Peake, as highlighted in her blog post.  Pupils from more than 15 schools attended.


To arrange interviews with Jane, please contact her via Twitter @Jane_MacArthur or via email:

ESO announcement:

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