The program is also finding its way into the curriculum in some schools as well. This was never a requirement of the program but it is good to see the telescope being utilised in new ways. At Charles Latrobe College, the Year 11 class (and any other keen students) are working towards their telescope license and will be doing some solar observing and photography.
At Northcote High School there is a Year 9 Astronomy elective and the students have come out to look through the telescopes and talk to us about all sorts of Astronomy topics. Will and Peter are still bringing their telescopes along, including the one Peter made himself. Both of these schools have also had a chance to talk to our research students, Steph, Rob and Antonios about their research and studying at Uni.
Taylors Lakes SC have resumed their weekly observing sessions with the same dedicated group and new comers as well. Teacher, Rob Davie, had also organised an excursion to VSSEC (hopefully you read the report in this post) for some keen Year 7s and I will be talking to them later this week about astrophotography.
Bellarine SC also had their first session for the year and PhD student, Vikram made the trip down again to talk to the students. Here is a great report from Year 7 student, Jack Brady.
On Monday, the 12th of May, as the sun was setting over Bellarine Secondary College`s Ocean Grove campus, a large telescope was taken out into the crisp evening air. Myself, Miss Hall, Mr Lairs, several other students and parents, and Vikrim from Melbourne University (approximately 20 people in total), all braved the cold to see the wonders of the night sky.
After setting up the telescope – a rather lengthy process I might add – the first planet on the list was Jupiter. I will never forget that. When we had a very high magnification lens on, what was a red-tinged glowing dot was transformed into an amazing site. I could see brightly coloured bands of cloud, and the four Galilean moons – Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.
Next up was the Orion nebula, the brightest of the three stars that make up Orion`s belt. With the naked eye, the nebula looked like every other star in the night sky – a glowing dot. However, with the aid of a telescope, you could see a cluster of four stars surrounding by a cloud of gases. We were starting to draw a crowd – by that time there must have been at least twenty people.
It was around that time that the International Space Station went overhead. From the ground, it look like a bright star moving very fast across the night sky. We also saw Mars, which only had slightly more detail than an orange Ping-Pong ball.
The moon was one of the most dazzling sites in the sky that night – literally. Even with a filter over the telescope, the moon`s pock-marked grey surface reflected the sun`s light with blinding intensity. Most people – myself included – wore a pair of sun glasses somebody had thought to bring. When my retinas weren`t being fried, I could see the heavily cratered lunar surface in amazing detail.
The final planet we saw was Saturn. Through the lens, you could see a small, pink-tinged disk surrounded by its beautiful rings, and three or four shining pinpricks of light that must have been some of the largest moons. It looked so far away out there. Now that I think about it, it`s so far away that the light I was seeing had spent three hours traveling.
After that, a lot of people went home, but a few stayed to help pack up. It had been one of the greatest nights of my life. Thank you to Miss Hall and all the other people who made this happen. Thank you to the planets and the stars, just for being out there.
I can`t wait until next time!
Jack Brady 7E/S1 Bellarine Secondary College
As you can see, busy times and LOTS of Astronomy.