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SOLAR sights

An Ogden grant is supporting spectroscopic observations to promote learning of astronomy and research.

Published: 8 February 2024

Last year, Burnley College’s A-level Division was awarded a grant from The Ogden Trust to purchase four small telescopes, solar and spectroscopic filters, and camera equipment. The equipment will be used by current A-level students as part of their physics course, and for wider astronomy enrichment sessions for all A-level students. The new equipment will also enable the College to do more outreach with local schools to encourage students to study physics at GCSE, A-level, and beyond. 

Aiming high

The college has already hosted three astronomical observation sessions for students, including one during a college open event, where prospective students and visitors to the college had the opportunity to observe the Moon through our telescopes. 

 From the rooftop of the college building, on a clear winter evening, students get a view of almost the entire night sky. “We have had success in observing Jupiter and its Galilean Moons, as well as Saturn, observing the rings with good clarity.” explains Antonio Coulton, Physics lecturer at the College. “We have also observed the Moon, Pleiades open cluster and the Orion Nebula.” 

Astronomy Enrichment group on the college rooftop looking through their telescope, watching the stars.

Astronomy Enrichment group on the college rooftop.

“Future plans include using the solar telescopes in the warmer summer months to track and observe sunspots and gain real spectroscopic data to determine the composition of the Sun’s atmosphere,” enthuses Antonio.

Reaching out

In January college teaching staff visited a Year 5 class in a local primary school near Burnley, where they had planned to use the telescopes to observe the Sun and draw sketches of the sunspots seen. Unfortunately, the weather was not favourable, but they still learned about the importance of studying space and the future of humanity in space. They also used the telescopes indoors to observe printed pictures of the planets, and the children created their own model planets.  

a selection of model planets - made from polystyrene baubles and painted

Plans are already in place to visit other local primary and secondary schools with their new equipment. 

The featured photo is a beautiful picture of the full Moon. Thanks to Adam, a student at Burnley College, for this photo.

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