Monthly Archives: April 2020

STEM Students answer Children’s Questions #3

When visiting schools and museums our Street Scientists often get asked a variety of questions from curious children. Here are the answers to some of our favourite questions!

This week, we’re answering the more general questions from children curious what life is like for a scientist.

What made you want to become a scientist?

-asked by Dylan, 10, from Simonside Primary School

Interesting question. I wanted to become a scientist because I find that science is a great way to find out more about the world and how it works. It gives me a whole different way of looking at and understanding the world.

For example, look at your hand and wiggle your fingers, that is all happening due to nerve impulses, which are a form of electricity that travel from the brain along nerves to your fingers instructing them to move.

Or even the reason we see colour such as green is because a green object will absorb all light but green light, and this reflects back making the object look green!

And that’s just the tiniest part of it. There is so much to discover and it’s all so intricate and fits together in such a clever way.

So, a bit of a lengthy answer but in short there is far too much interesting stuff out there for me not to become a scientist and try and find out as much as I can. The best thing is, I will never be able to find out everything, there will always be something for someone else to discover, someone like you, if you wanted!
– James, Biology & Psychology Student


Does your experiments work all the time?

-asked by Farah, 8, from West Jesmond Primary School

Unfortunately they don’t always work out, but that’s what makes science so exciting since we can still learn things from the times things didn’t work out like we planned. Loads of scientific discoveries and new inventions have been made by accident including X-rays, corn flakes and Velcro.
– JC, Medical Student


Why do we need to do science?

-asked by Harith, 7.5, from West Jesmond Primary School

That’s a great question. Science is really important because it helps us answer so many questions like ‘why is the sky blue’ but it also can be used to design and make cars, computers and other great things that people use every day.

It can also help us save and improve lives by creating medicines and new treatments for diseases; figuring out the best way to grow enough food for millions of people; and generating electricity to power homes.

Science is even used in places you might not expect like in producing the colour dyes for your clothes and in your favourite sweets!
-JC, Medical Student & Clare, STEM Outreach Officer


What is your favourite thing about science?

-asked by Jonathon, 11, from Burnside Primary School

I love how science lets me understand all the amazing mysteries in the world, from gravity which stops us from flying into space to electricity which powers my home!

I’m particularly interested in the science of biology and the human body, I find all the different ways the body adapts to change to keep us healthy very clever. Everything in the body is in balance, the lungs breath in more oxygen to supply our muscles when we exercise, and the kidneys hold in salt and water when we are dehydrated. Wanting to learn more, I decided train to be a doctor to learn how to fix the body when things go wrong.

I am amazed by the inventions and discoveries by scientists that help us treat diseases more efficiently. X-rays and CT scanners allow us to see inside the body from the outside while antibiotics and vaccinations treat and prevent infections that would otherwise be fatal.

My overall favourite thing about science is that as it is so broad, there is something to interest everyone! A scientist can be anyone from a zoologist to a nuclear physics to students doing experiments in school! Science is always changing as scientists and researchers making new discoveries that challenge the way we see the world, and engineers and computer scientists come up with inventions that change our day to day life.
-Ailie, Medical Student & Evolution and Human Behaviour Masters Student

If you have any questions that you would like our team to answer, please leave a comment below!

Why I chose to study Marine Biology at Newcastle Unviersity

Marine Biology student, Demi, tells us all about why she decided to study Marine Biology, here at Newcastle University

Research

When researching where I thought I would want to go for university I simply googled ‘best places to study marine biology in the UK’ and Newcastle was one of the first to come up. The main thing I looked on the website for were the course content and the University’s reputation, neither of which disappointed! I found the course content and module choices at Newcastle were much more suited to my interests than any other universities I researched. Newcastle ranks 4th in the UK in the Earth and Marine Sciences category, has the TEF Gold award and is the only course that I researched which is accredited by the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST). All of these things were really important in making my decision.

Facilities

The specific marine science facilities at Newcastle are another reason I chose to study here. They have their very own research vessel, the RV Princess Royal which gives us the opportunity to carry out our own research in the North Sea. On top of this is the Dove Marine lab, a university building right on the beach which is purpose built for marine research which I found very exciting!

View from the Dove Marine Lab

Field trips/ Placement year

One of the main things I looked for in university courses was the opportunities for experiences in the field. Newcastle university offers two field weeks in different coastal habitats around the north east plus a residential field trip to Millport in year one alone!

As well as the opportunity for a work placement at any organisation in the world between years 2 & 3 and the overseas field trip to either Portugal, Mexico or Bermuda in year 3.

Open day

My Open day experience at Newcastle was what confirmed the Newcastle was the city and the university for me. Attending open days for universities is so important and I would definitely recommend it if you can! The minute I stepped on campus I felt excited, it was this gut feeling (that I couldn’t get from the website alone) along with the amazing campus, extremely friendly student and lecturers that were happy to answer all of my many many questions that ultimately made my decision for me.

PARTNERS Scheme

The PARTNERS scheme was something unique to Newcastle that I didn’t find in any other university I applied for. It gives students from disadvantaged backgrounds a better chance at getting into university by reducing the grade boundaries subject to certain criteria and you attending a summer school. I attended the PARTNERS summer school in the July before I started and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, it gave me a head start to the lab equipment and online material as well as allowing me to make friends before I started in September!

City

Newcastle is a relatively small and lively city; similar to my own home city so I instantly felt at home here! It’s perfect for student life with the campus and student accommodation so close to the centre of town meaning everything is within walking distance which I really enjoy. The campus is extremely pretty and the people, both students and locals are all positive and friendly making Newcastle a home from home and the perfect place to spend my university years.

Myth busting: Charcoal Toothpaste

In this guest post, Dental student, Jenny, reveals the science behind charcoal toothpaste

Dental students during a clinical placement

In the last few years, a massive surge in commercially available brands of charcoal-based toothpastes has swept through UK retailers and taken the online market by storm. With its ecological, all-natural, all-organic outward appearance, only a fool would turn down the opportunity for a whiter smile and fresher breath. Sound too good to be true? Well, I’m afraid it is.

Research within the dental industry has concluded that the vast majority of charcoal toothpastes advertised to the general public are backed by marketing campaigns built on a cracked foundation of scarce scientific evidence, distinct absence of controlled clinical studies and multitudes of misleading information.

How charcoal toothpaste claims to work in advertising is as follows:

Fine powder activated charcoal in the toothpaste traps toxins, plaque and bacteria in its many pores, removing them from the enamel of the tooth surface, leaving a whiter smile. As well as that, charcoal toothpaste has both antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic properties by binding to and absorbing harmful microorganisms. Furthermore, charcoal removes the bacteria responsible for causing halitosis (bad breath), resulting in a fresher aroma.

Let’s debunk this statement.

First things first, activated charcoal toothpaste will very rarely contain fluoride. One review from 2017, found that only 8% of 50 charcoal toothpastes available online contained fluoride. Fluoride in toothpaste is a tried and tested method in increasing enamel remineralisation, increasing tooth strength and thereby decreasing risk of tooth decay. However, activated charcoal readily absorbs fluoride, rendering it inactive and unable to remineralise enamel. Therefore, charcoal toothpastes both with and without fluoride potentially increase a person’s risk of dental decay.

Secondly, when it comes to removing so-called “toxins”, there is no credible, supporting scientific evidence that charcoal applied directly to the teeth or gums provides any detoxification benefits. As well as that, there is a vacuum of data to support any claims that charcoal can adhere to all deposits (e.g. plaque, bacteria etc) on tooth surfaces.

As for that “whiter smile”, once again we see the reoccurring theme of product endorsement that is completely unsubstantiated and devoid of any supporting scientific evidence. There have been no adequately controlled clinical studies to support any cosmetic benefits (i.e. whitening) or health benefits (antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic). Supposedly, fine powder activated charcoal gently removes tooth surface stains by light abrasive forces. However, as of 2019 there has been no independent verification of manufacturers’ claims of low charcoal abrasivity. If anything, there is the distinct risk of a person frequently and vigorously brushing their teeth with charcoal toothpaste in order to achieve the desired whitening effect faster. This will in fact strip the tooth of the outer white enamel layer, exposing the inner yellow dentine layer, thus creating the opposite of the desired effect. Finally, there is no supporting scientific evidence that charcoal diminishes the causes of bad breath.

Overall, the popularity of charcoal toothpaste is not founded in its incredible therapeutic benefits, but instead in carefully and cunningly designed marketing campaigns. Campaigns that will continue to claim extraordinary health improvements, until proven wrong. Campaigns that utilise trendy buzzwords, a generation’s desire to be as natural, pure and eco-friendly as possible, and the nation’s desire for that Hollywood smile. Charcoal toothpaste is nothing more than a trendy fad, capturing consumers with inaccurate and borderline deceitful claims. Such questionable ethics would see any licensed, practising dentist reprimanded for misleading patients. Surely it is time that the marketing behind these fashionable oral healthcare products should be held to the same moral and ethical standards?

Earth Day: 10 Tips for Living more Sustainably at University

In honour of Earth Day, Marine Biology Student, Demi has compiled her top 10 tips for living a more sustainable student life.

1. Walk as much as you can

A pretty simple one to start with, especially at Newcastle university! With the uni and accommodation within walking distance of each other and the city centre, make it part of your daily life to walk to the places you need to be. Not only is it good for your health (getting those steps in!) but less Uber trips are also good for the environment and your bank!

2. Take your own bags shopping

Invest in a couple of bags for life and remind yourself. Get your flatmates to remind you to take them with you every time you do a big shop so that you can stop using plastic bags at the checkout! Single use plastics are a huge issue for the environment and only 1/200 are estimated to actually get recycled.

3. Reusable bottle

Stop buying bottled water! The average person uses 150 plastic bottles per year, all of which can be avoided altogether by buying a reusable bottle that you can refill. Many people find drinking from a reusable bottle also makes them drink more water; so there are health benefits as well as environment ones!

4. Meal planning

Sounds boring but it can actually be really effective! Before you need to shop write out a plan of what you want to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the week. Not only will you save money by only buying what you need, but you’ll also save food from being wasted and going to create CO2 in landfills.

5. Bulk buying

Again bulk buying can save you some money in the long run as food is usually cheaper when you buy more, but by buying in bulk, you also get less pointless packaging therefore less rubbish going into landfill (or potentially the ocean). Win-win!

6. Put your leftovers in a soup

There are plenty of easy recipes online to help you turn almost any leftovers that you do get into a soup. Again less wasted food and an extra meal for you, another win-win!

7. Reduce washing clothes

Be more energy efficient when washing your clothes; only do a wash when you have a full load, wear clothes such as jeans and jumpers more than once before washing. Laundry has a bigger effect on the planet than you might think. According to the United Nations environment programme you can use 5 times less energy by wearing your jeans at least 3 times before washing and skipping the dryer!

8. Borrow instead of buy

Whether it be books you can borrow from the library or fancy-dress outfits you can borrow from friends; buying less = less waste in the long run because let’s be honest, how often are you going to wear that 70s disco outfit?

9. Metal straws

Single-use plastic straws are contributing massively to landfill and ocean pollution problems. The easiest way to solve this problem is to stop using them, or to switch to metal straws. They are cheap, easy to clean and you can keep one in your bag whenever you go out, so you’ll never have to use a plastic straw again.

10. Shampoo/conditioner bars

Many shops offer sustainably made shampoo/conditioner bars, many of which are natural and better for your hair than regular ones which typically contain lots of chemicals, but most importantly they come without the plastic bottles!

STEM Students answer Children’s Questions #2

When visiting schools and museums our Street Scientists often get asked a variety of questions from curious children. Here are the answers to some of our favourite questions!

This week, we’re focusing on Biology questions around DNA and genetics.

First of all we should really explain what DNA is. It stands for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid. It is essentially the building blocks of life. All living things, plants, animals and you are made of DNA. It is a big, long code that tells your body how to make you. You inherit your DNA partly from your mother and partly from your father – that’s why we often look similar to our families.


Do twins have the same DNA?

-asked by Lucy, 11, from Burnside Primary School

Well it really depends on what kind of twins you have. Monozygotic twins (the scientific name for identical twins) do have the exact same DNA as each other because both individuals developed from the same fertilized egg. Dizygotic twins, (non-identical twins), don’t have the same DNA since the individuals are formed from two different eggs that are fertilised at the same time, this is also how twins can be born one boy and one girl.
– JC, Medical Student


How is DNA created?

-asked by Nicole, 11, from Burnside Primary School

DNA is created as a double helix (imagine a twisted ladder shape) of two complementary strands, which mean the strands are matched up to each other. These DNA strands are made of chemical building blocks called nucleotides. We can think of this building blocks as ladders. Each building blocks are made of three parts: a phosphate group, a sugar group and one of four types of nitrogen bases. To form a strand of DNA, nucleotides are linked into chains (one side of the ladder formed), with the phosphate and sugar groups alternating. They are formed like a spiral ladder, where the phosphate and the sugar molecules are the sides and the nitrogen bases act as the rungs. The base from one strand is then connected to complementary base of another DNA strand. So, even though the molecules are very long, a DNA is compact and coiled, which enables it to fit inside packaging we call chromosomes. In humans, we have 23 pairs of chromosomes inside the nucleus of our cells. These contains information and instructions needed for us to develop, grow and reproduce.
– Aurelia, Dental student


How many genes are in a body?

-asked by Kian, 9, from Hylton Castle Primary School

Every cell in your body has a nucleus with the DNA containing all of your genes. Each gene has the special code to make one of the proteins used to build the body. If you stretched out all the genes in the DNA of one cell it would be 2 metres long, and each person has 37 trillion cells! The DNA is very tightly coiled into 23 pairs of chromosomes, one of each pair comes from your mum and the other from your dad. This is why you and your siblings have some features from each of your parents. Scientists say we all have 25,000 genes that decide everything from your skin colour to your height. Everyone has different genes, apart from identical twins, meaning we are all unique and there is no one exactly like you in the entire world!
– Ailie, Evolution and Human Behaviour Masters Student


Is it possible to make a dinosaur come back to life using similar DNA?

-asked by Noah, 11, from Burnside Primary School

A great question, I definitely hope so, but we would have to be careful we don’t want a Jurassic park situation! Some people might say the most similar thing to a dinosaur nowadays would be a reptile, but dinosaurs were more likely warm blooded, unlike reptiles. The most related live group of animals to dinosaurs are birds, did you know chickens are thought to be distantly descended from a T-rex? However, birds aren’t very dinosaur like. Say we wanted to bring a diplodocus back to life, our best bet would be to try and find some source of DNA for example blood in the body of mosquito trapped in amber (like in jurassic park!) and splice (which is like fusing or attaching) it to a similar animal’s DNA.

Scientists have been working on a way to bring Mammoths back, using DNA from dead mammoths which were frozen in ice! They are splicing this DNA to elephant DNA to try and create a hybrid mammoth/elephant hybrid. It might be easier to bring a smaller dinosaur back, like a Compsognathus (a turkey sized dinosaur which was thought to eat small lizards and insects) by forming a hybrid with the most closely related animal today. Whilst scientist haven’t made mammoths de-extinct yet, they have managed to do it briefly with Pyrenean Ibex (a sort of mountain goat with big horns although sadly this didn’t live very long) so perhaps in the future there is hope yet for dinosaurs and mammoths to return, I certainly hope so!
– James, Biology and Psychology Student

Jurassic Park via Giphy.com

A Year in Industry as a Chemical Engineering Student

Chemical Engineering student, Rosie, gives us an insight into her placement year, working for AstraZeneca.

After my 3rd year of studying a 4 year integrated masters in Chemical Engineering, I worked as a Process Engineer at AstraZeneca pharmaceutical company for a year. The first thing I learnt from this experience is that a Chemical Engineer and a Process Engineer are the same thing. I actually think Process Engineer better describes the profession which is all about designing, developing and improving processes that make chemicals. AstraZeneca researches, develops and manufactures medicines for cancer, respiratory, kidney and cardiovascular diseases. I worked in the department that develops the process and technology used to manufacture the medicines.

During this year in industry, no two days were ever the same. My role included a variety of tasks and responsibilities allowing me to develop my technical skills as an engineer and increase my confidence to work in a professional environment. I also developed a lot of skills that will help me function in a graduate role, such as communication and time management, which are essential for effective teamwork. In the pharmaceutical industry, chemical engineers are involved in work to develop the manufacturing process, as well as facilitating manufacture of material at varying scales for clinical trials or commercial supply.

I worked on a project to develop the manufacturing process for a cancer medicine, completing a lab based investigation to gain understanding of a filtration process in the current manufacturing route. A normal day would mostly be spent in the lab. I ran a set of experiments over several weeks, each taking a whole day. The experiment aimed to measure change in concentration of a liquid when recirculated through a filter. There were 4 key stages in the experiment; set up the equipment, run the experiment while taking regular samples, shutdown and clean up the experiment, and then analyse the samples. Once the lab work was complete, all the results were analysed to draw conclusions from the project. I then shared my conclusions and learnings from the project through oral presentations and written reports, in order to maximise the learning of the company from my project.

Rosie and her colleagues on their placement year at AstraZeneca

I also worked as part of a team to facilitate the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals for clinical trials. The work I completed involved assessing the safety of the manufacturing process. Chemical plants have to adhere to very high regulations on pollution and emissions from manufacturing activities, and my work included checking any release of chemical from process into the environment is within the limits. I was also involved in altering the manufacturing site to install all equipment required to manufacture this particular medicine.

Despite being in a professional environment, I found there was still a strong social aspect with my co-workers. Admittedly this was not comparable to attending university with thousands of other students in a city, however at AstraZeneca there were social events at an office level and entire department level. There were also around 20 other students completing the Year in Industry, and I made some good friends and enjoyed exploring the city of Manchester which was only a short train ride away.

World Health Day – the Eatwell Plate

To celebrate World Health Day, we have a guest post from Jenny, a Dentistry Student at Newcastle University

Eatwell plate

This is the Eatwell Plate. It is a handy visual guide showing exactly how much each food group should contribute to what we eat on a daily basis to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

The plate is divided into the 5 main food groups we should consume every day:

  1. Fruit and vegetables – 40% of what you eat in a day.
  2. Pasta, potatoes, rice, bread and other starchy carbohydrates – 38% of daily food intake.
  3. Protein sources such as beans, eggs, meat, pulses and fish – 12% of daily food intake.
  4. Milk and dairy (including dairy alternatives) – 8% of daily food intake.
  5. Oils and spreads – 1% of daily food intake.

You may have noticed that these percentages only add up to 99%. This is because the final 1% is allocated for high fat, salt and sugar foods such as fizzy drinks or chocolate bars. These food stuffs should rarely be consumed and only in small amounts.

As well as that, we should be drinking 6-8 glasses of fluids every day. This includes water, low fat and low sugar milk, and fruit juice that is not from concentrate.

The balance displayed on the Eatwell Plate does not have to be achieved in every meal of the day but should be attained for what you eat overall in a day. With that said, let’s take a more in depth look at the food groups.

Fruit and vegetables

You should always try to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day and familiarise yourself with how much of each fruit or vegetable contribute to one portion (e.g. 7 strawberries = 1 portion). This can be in the form of fresh, frozen, tinned or juiced fruit (although juiced or fruit smoothies should be limited to 150ml/day because they have higher sugar content than fresh fruit). Fruit and veg is a vital part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle because they contain a variety of vital minerals, vitamins and nutrients. For example, broccoli, spinach and lots of other green vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin C, great for maintaining strong bones, joints and to boost your immune system. Also, parsnips, Brussels sprouts and bananas are great sources of potassium, which helps to maintain healthy heart muscles.

Pasta, potatoes, rice, bread and other starchy carbohydrates

Every meal should be built on a starchy carbohydrate base, with wholegrain versions of pasta, rice and bread chosen when possible. Starchy carbohydrates are a very important source of energy because our bodies break down carbohydrates into sugars which are then converted into energy. They are also a source of calcium, iron, vitamin B and fibre, which aids digestion.

Protein

Protein is very important in building muscle strength and facilitating growth and repair in our bodies. To achieve correct protein intake, each week you should have two portions of fish, including one portion of oily fish, such as salmon or mackerel. This is because oily fish provides out bodies with the fatty acid, omega-3 and vitamin D, which help maintain a healthy heart.

Protein from red meats should be limited to less than 70g per day because high consumption of red and processed meats could increase risk of developing cancer in older individuals. However, red meats are an excellent source of iron which increases our blood’s ability to transport oxygen allowing us to be more active.

Milk and dairy

Dairy products and dairy alternatives (such as soya, oat or almond milk) are excellent sources of calcium which helps maintain strong bones and teeth. Dairy products include cheese, milk and yoghurt, although you should always pick products which are low in fat and sugar.

Oils and spreads

When it comes to choosing what to put on your toast in the morning, it is always better to use a spread that contains unsaturated fats, such as vegetable, olive and sunflower oils. The same applies to cooking oils. Unsaturated fats help protect our hearts and reduce cholesterol. Food stuffs with high fat content should be rarely consumed.

Finally, a few handy tips for a healthy and balanced meal:

  1. Everything in moderation – eating the recommended portions of each food group outlined by the Eatwell plate, will ensure you get all the vital daily vitamins, nutrients and minerals you need. Cutting out whole food groups (like carbohydrates) rather than improve your health will actually result in poor health effects such as tiredness and stomach upsets.
  2. Make your plate every colour of the rainbow – if your meal looks too beige or too much of one colour, you won’t be getting all the necessary micronutrients you need.

In the spirit of World Health Day, why don’t you take the opportunity to maintain a healthy, balanced diet and make your plate and Eatwell Plate.

A Week in the Life of a Marine Biology Student… in the Field!

First-year Marine Zoology student, Demi, tells us about her experience of a spending a week at our Dove Marine Lab in Cullercoats and in the surrounding coastal area.

Monday

To start off the week we boarded the coach to the Dove marine lab; the university’s specialised research facility right on the beach. In our morning activity we learnt about the different types of keys that can be used to identify marine organisms, which is very important so that when you find animals out on the shore you can tell what they are. We then split into groups and tried making our own keys to identify people in our groups; this was a great activity as it allowed us the get to know our course mates better.

The afternoon was spend looking through seaweed samples and identifying all the little organisms living within the seaweed. I really enjoyed this as it highlighted that all the little and “less exciting” animals can be just as fun to look into as learning about the larger animals!

The view from the classroom in the Dove Marine lab

Tuesday

Back at the Dove Marine lab, Tuesday morning was spent out on the rocky shore of North Cullercoats Bay (battling the northern wind and rain), collecting all the organisms we could find (essentially rock-pooling). We found everything from crabs and fish to starfish, snails and limpets. In the afternoon we did scientific drawings of the organisms we found. For this we used the keys we learnt about the day before to identify the scientific names for all of the animals. My favourite was the bloody henry starfish (Henricia sanguinolenta)

One of the crab species we found on the shore; Carcinus maenas

Wednesday

On Wednesday morning we went to Black Middens, at the mouth of the River Tyne. Here, we had the chance to look at different sediment types in an estuarine environment and how this influences the organisms found there. It was such a beautiful place! We did field sketches, which is an important skill for ecologists and looked at the human impacts on the site. In the afternoon we visited the commercial fish quay at North Shields to look at the fishing boats and the types of fish caught in the North Sea. We also met the Quay Master who spoke to us about management mechanisms and fishing quotas, which was very interesting!

Black Middens

Thursday

Thursday was spent at St. Mary’s Island; a small island near Whitley Bay where we experienced a different type of rocky shore to the one at Cullercoats. We were introduced to the key identifying features of common rocky shore plants and animals and how they’re adapted to their place on the shore. We also had time to get all our notes and field sketches up to date before heading back to campus.

St Mary’s Island

Friday

To end the week, we were back on the rocky shore at Cullercoats assessing the abundance of 3 common rocky shore animal species: the limpet, Patella vulgata; the dogwhelk Nucella lapillus; and the barnacle Semibalanus balanoides. In the morning we were out with quadrats collecting data, in the afternoon we were back in the classroom at the Dove Marine Lab where we learnt how to do basic statistics on our data in order to analyse their distribution patterns.  

The common limpet; Patella vulgata

   If you would like to learn more about studying Marine Zoology, click here to visit the course page or click here to chat to current student.

STEM Students Answer Children’s Questions #1

When visiting schools and museums our Street Scientists often get asked a variety of questions from curious children. Here are the answers to some of our favourite questions!

This week, we’re focusing on questions around Earth Science and other planets.

If the Earth is the right distance away for it to be not too hot, not too cold, how come the north and south pole are cold?

– asked by a student from Blaydon West Primary School

As the Earth goes around the Sun it spins on its own axis. The equator is the closest bit to the sun during the day so it heats up, and stays relatively warm during the night as the atmosphere is good at retaining heat. The poles however are always the furthest part away from the Sun hence never warm up and are thus are the coldest parts of the Earth.
– Leo, Mechanical Engineering Student


How do we get seasons?

– asked by a student from Blaydon West Primary School

The Earth’s axis of rotation is tilted by 23.5 degrees and so some bits of the Earth’s surface are slightly closer to the Sun than the other bits. So in the Summer, the Northern Hemisphere is angled towards the Sun; in the Winter it is angled away from the Sun.
– Leo, Mechanical Engineering Student


What are the rings of a planet made of?

– asked by a student from Mortimer Primary School

There are rings around all of the planets known as gas giants; Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune. These rings are made up of asteroid and ice particles. Only the rings around Saturn can be seen from Earth as they contain more ice which reflects the sunlight more. The rings around most of the gas giants (Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune) were formed from the impact of asteroids and meteorites which threw dust out into orbit. Whereas Saturn’s rings were formed by the impact of an icy moon causing a lot of bigger chunks of debris to be thrown into orbit. Although the debris is pushing away from the planet the gravity pulls this debris towards the planet enough to keep it in orbit.
– Jade, Earth Science student


How do you make a planet?

– asked by a student from Bede Burn Primary School

All matter was formed in a huge explosion called the Big Bang over 13 billion years ago. There are two main theories about the formation of planets, but they are both driven by a force called gravity which is the force that keeps us on the ground and causes objects to fall when dropped. Gravity causes the material formed in the big bang to come together forming asteroids and eventually planets. As these asteroids crash into each other they release a lot of heat that causes them to melt. This melting allows the heavier, denser elements to sink to the centre of the planet and the lighter elements rise further up. This separation forms the layers within the planets.
– Jade, Earth Science student

Have any more questions you’d like to ask our experts? Write them in the comments below!