Year 13 Astronomy study day at the Royal Greenwich Observatory

When the brilliant lecture on stellar evolution was over the students had a chance to grab some lunch and have a look at the interactive galleries in the astronomy centre.

Dinesh, Arjun and Anish trying to produce their own universe.

Arjun, Devan and a little friend see how a planet can be identified by a drop in light intensity from its Sun as it passes by.

Arjun and Dinesh use the interactive table-top in Astronomy Questions.

Anthony using one of the interactive exhibits to explore the universe.

Abdi, Anish, Dinesh and Antony trying to land a probe on an asteroid.

Anish, Devan and Arjun also trying to land a probe on an asteroid (I’m not letting on who was the most successful).

Devan and Anish watching a video about the origin of the universe.

The next activity for the year 13s involved the Citizen Science online project Galaxy Zoo (see whereby members of the public can classify galaxies and contribute to scientific research. The students were given real data on galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and used basic equations to determine large-scale properties of the universe.

During the course of the workshop the students were introduced to the concepts of luminosity and intensity and how these relate to distance. They looked at real spectra of galaxies and how these give us velocities. They combined these two sets of measurements to produce a velocity-distance graph and attempted to explain what this tells us about the nature of the Universe. This activity gave them practice in converting between different units, finding the gradient of their best-fit line to determine the Hubble constant and the age of the Universe in billions of years and how the scatter in their graph could affect their results.

Antony, Abdi and Anish listening to the instructions for the task.

Devan, Arjun and Dinesh getting on with the task

and getting some help Dr. Topalovic.

Dr. Topalovic gives a helping hand to Antony, Abdi and Anish.

The final part of the activity involved looking at how the universe has changed over time. When the Universe was only 380000 years old it was made up of 10% neutrinos, 15% photons, 12% atoms and 63% dark matter. Today it is made up of 72% dark energy, 23% dark matter and 4.6% matter.

The end of a very successful activity where everyone got a reasonable value for the age of the universe. Back row: Arjun, Devan, Dr. Topalovic, Anish and Devan. Front row: Antony and Abdi.

Before the last activity the students were able to look round the older part of the observatory but lack of time meant we weren’t able to do it justice. See:


The students were able view sunspots in the Royal Observatory courtyard.

Abdi and Arjun wait in line whilst Devan safely looks at the Sun. You could just make out some prominences and there was definitely a sunspot.

Abdi straddling both sides of the world. See  for information about the meridian line.

Devan almost standing on both sides of the world.

Anish, Dinesh and Devan admiring the view from the Observatory. You can just make out the Queens house, Canary Wharf and the O2 arena.

Devan and Arjun. The Queen’s House, The Royal Naval College (now part of the University ofGreenwich) and Canary Wharf can be seen.

Devan, Anish, Dinesh, Arjun, Abdi and Antony enjoying the surroundings.

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