Rugby 2019

The Faulkes Telescope Project: bringing the universe in to the classroom

Dr Paul Roche, Cardiff University

This workshop demonstrated how schools can use robotic telescopes located around the globe to image astronomical objects, allowing students to participate in real research programmes. The session showed how simple it is to use the telescopes (both via live access and through a queue scheduling system), and demonstrated the free classroom resources, data archives and support materials. Example projects were outlined, e.g. asteroid rotation, creating HR diagrams, monitoring newly discovered supernovae and studying exoplanet transits. A variety of other astronomy/space science resources were covered, including free software allowing students to analyse astronomical data.

One of the activities involves taking data from astronomical photographs.

Centaurus A

This composite image of the galaxy Centaurus A shows an example of how powerful X-ray and radio jets can extend from the supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy, affecting the black hole’s surroundings. [ESO/WFI (visible); MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al. (microwave); NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al. (X-ray)]

Centaurus A or NGC 5128 is a galaxy in the constellation of Centaurus. It was discovered in 1826 by Scottish astronomer James Dunlop from his home in Parramatta, in New South Wales, Australia.

Two supernovae have been detected in Centaurus A. The first supernova, named SN 1986G, was discovered within the dark dust lane of the galaxy by R. Evans in 1986. It was later identified as a Type Ia supernova, which forms when a white dwarf’s mass grows large enough to ignite carbon fusion in its centre, touching off a runaway thermonuclear reaction, as may happen when a white dwarf in a binary star system strips gas away from the other star. SN 1986G was used to demonstrate that the spectra of type Ia supernovae are not all identical, and that type Ia supernovae may differ in the way that they change in brightness over time.

The second supernova, a type IIb dubbed SN2016adj, was discovered by Backyard Observatory Supernova Search in February 2016.

Can you spot an asteroid? You can’t with just one image

Enquiry based “teacher-free” activities for students to learn about open clusters, HR diagrams as well as photometry

Students can choose any one of 28 datasets or create their own

First of seven:

Open cluster; exoplanets; variable stars; supernova; compact objects; asteroids; computer simulations

National schools observatory – NSO projects and activities

What is “down2earth”

Down2Earth is run by the Faulkes Telescope Project in partnership with the National Museum of Wales, supported by funding from the Science Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

The project encompasses a variety of resources for students and teachers, enabling them to learn more about the science of asteroids and comets (including their detection, orbits, deflection, effects of impacts, mass extinctions and the properties of meteorites).

Using the Impact Calculator, students can create a virtual impact on Earth by changing the size, speed and composition of an approaching asteroid or comet.

A STEM activity exploring the Cheylabinsk meteor

The Chelyabinsk meteor was a superbolide that entered Earth’s atmosphere over Russia on 15 February 2013 at about 09:20 YEKT (03:20 UTC).

Can students reproduce Chixulub crater?

Can students find the largest crater in their country and reproduce it. Can they reverse engineer an existing crater on Earth?

“Black holes in my school”

XTE J1118+480

XTE J1118+480 is a low-mass X-ray binary in the constellation Ursa Major. It is a soft X-ray transient that most likely contains a black hole and is probably a microquasar.

Gaia is an ambitious mission to chart a three-dimensional map of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, in the process revealing the composition, formation and evolution of the Galaxy. Gaia will provide unprecedented positional and radial velocity measurements with the accuracies needed to produce a stereoscopic and kinematic census of about one billion stars in our Galaxy and throughout the Local Group. This amounts to about 1 per cent of the Galactic stellar population.


CCDS; signalling; launch; orbit location; scientific instruments; precision; power systems

Spotting supernovae

Fig. 1.

Velocity–distance relation among extra-galactic nebulae. Radial velocities, corrected for solar motion (but labelled in the wrong units), are plotted against distances estimated from involved stars and mean luminosities of nebulae in a cluster. The black discs and full line represent the solution for solar motion by using the nebulae individually; the circles and broken line represent the solution combining the nebulae into groups; the cross represents the mean velocity corresponding to the mean distance of 22 nebulae whose distances could not be estimated individually. [Reproduced with permission from ref. 1 (Copyright 1929, The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens).]

Fig. 3.

The Hubble diagram for type Ia supernovae. From the compilation of well observed type Ia supernovae by Jha. The scatter about the line corresponds to statistical distance errors of <10% per object. The small red region in the lower left marks the span of Hubble’s original Hubble diagram from 1929.

The Faulkes Telescope Project (FTP) is supported by the Dill Faulkes Educational Trust. It provides access to 1,500 hours of observing time on two 2-metre class telescopes located in Hawaii (Faulkes Telescope North in Hawaii) and Australia (Faulkes Telescope South in Australia). This time is dedicated to education and public outreach, mainly in the UK, but also for smaller, selected projects in Europe and the US.


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