First School Observation Night

Last Thursday night saw us head out to Werribee where we were met with 12 Year 9 students from Suzanne Cory High School as well as their parents and siblings. The theme of the night was the Solar System and we started off the night with a talk from Dr Shane about all the planets in our Solar System. We found out that Jupiter and Saturn have over 60 moons each, that Mercury is really hot AND really cold and that Neptune is about 30 Astronomical Units from the Sun.

Dr Shane on Solar System

Dr Shane giving his talk on our Solar System

After listening to these amazing Solar System facts, we then went outside to see if the skies had cleared enough for us to look at some astronomical objects. Keep in mind that Melbourne had been drenched for the entire week and this had been the first dry day. We were in luck, though and the clouds parted just enough so we could get a glimpse of the Moon, Saturn and Mars. We also had Stellarium on hand so we could pick out some important constellations. There were also plenty of questions asked and answers given, as we were also lucky to have a couple of Astro students helping us out for the evening.

Students, parents, teachers and Melbourne University members.

Mr Kerry looking through the telescope.

Finally when the clouds finally won out, we headed back inside to finish up with an activity. We each made our own scale model of the Solar System and not wanting to give away too many spoilers, there is a lot of empty space between the Sun and the Kuiper Belt (or Pluto for some).

Thanks to Suzanne Cory for a great night, it was wonderful to see such excitement and enthusiasm from the students and their knowledge of the Universe has already blown us away. We can’t wait to see what they want to look at next.

Head to our Resources page to find some more interesting facts and activities on the Solar System.


Telescope delivery

In the last week of Term 1 I had the pleasure of delivering my fifth telescope to Pascoe Vale Girls College. We had an audience of Year 11 and Year 12 students interested in Physics and Astronomy who had given up their lunch break to watch. They got to witness myself and the two Physics teachers, Zeita Hare and Louise Ankers putting the telescope together. There was certainly a buzz in the air and plenty of oohs and aahs and we pulled out one piece of equipment after another. As this telescope was the one we had used at the Planetarium the night before, we knew it was running beautifully and was easy to construct. Once we had the telescope all set up, I took the cover off so the girls could look down into the telescope and get an idea of the 3m focal length and the magnification. More oohs as they raced off to their next class. We were lucky on the day to have a photography student present who took some fabulous photos of the occasion.

Telescope set up

Ms Ankers and two Physics students, Rajitha Amadoruge and Kathryn Randall-Dzerdz watching the telescope construction.

Down the Telescope

What you might see, looking down the other end...

PVGC have started a Science club that are meeting regularly and will be utilising the telescope. We look forward to hearing about their investigations. Thanks to Amalia Carroll, a Year 12 student, who took all the photos.

Teacher Training Part 2

The last week of Term 1 saw the second instalment or our Professional Development program at the Melbourne Planetarium. While the clouds were still heavy it was a mild night and we were able to show the grad students how to set up the telescope from scratch.

Telescope Construction

Here we are putting the scope together! All hands on deck.


Well almost all hands. Some of us had to supervise right?

The second session had the teachers treated to an amazing ride through the universe in the Melbourne Planetarium led by Astronomer and Curator, Dr Tanya Hill. Then a lesson on using a Planisphere from Trish Christies, Astronomy Education officer and author of the activities we looked at in the first session. While this was happening, the grad students were learning how to use the telescopes with the aide of some very knowledgable volunteers. After the show in the Planetarium had finished the grad students passed on their new found knowledge to the teachers.

Here is a stunning picture of one of our Astronomy students, Stephanie Bernard, looking at the stars with one of the amazing volunteers. Thanks to Jenny Riding who took all the photos that night.Looking at the Stars

Thanks to both Quantum Victoria and Melbourne Planetarium for hosting these sensational nights.