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Funding from the Trust helps Leeds Sixth Form College launch an Astronomical Society.

Published: 9 February 2022

In 2021, Leeds Sixth Form College wanted to start a student Astronomical Society to give them skills in using equipment such as telescopes and give them the opportunity to explore and observe the night sky.

The college has a large number of disadvantaged students so for the majority of them, telescopes and good quality photography equipment are not something they can easily access. A physics education grant from The Ogden Trust enabled the college to buy some telescopes and a camera for astrophotography: the Astronomical Society was launched.

Bresser Pollux 150 EQ refractor telescope

The Astronomical Society is now giving the physics students an opportunity to see different telescopes at work. They can look at the Sun safely and see if they can spot any sunspots on the solar disk. The telescopes also come with a phone adapter, so students can take images using their phone cameras; the astrophotography camera is giving them more scope to explore the night’s sky.

“Our two targets for the Astronomical Society were to get at least 20 students to attend and for the majority of them to be from underrepresented groups,” explains David Shelton, physics subject lead at Leeds Sixth Form College. “In the first term and half, we have had over 28 students – 19 from groups that are under-represented in physics.”

So far, students at the club have taken pictures of the Sun outside the college and are hoping to visit the North Yorkshire Moors – a designated dark sky region – to do some night-time observations. “Weather permitting, we should be able to clearly view the night sky,” explains David. “There is even the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights and the Milky Way from this vantage point. We are hoping to expand the society in the future and to visit observatories in the UK, such as Kielder Observatory and Jodrell Bank. Without the Ogden Trust funding we would not have been able to get this society off the ground,” David concludes.

A photo of the sun

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