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Outreach: Schools Visits to and from UCLO

Work on the New Wilson Building dome are now complete. School visits are open starting from the 22nd of February (2017).

 

 

Astronomy in the classroom, school and observatory visits (KS2 to A Level)

The programme has run successfully for a number of years, exciting young minds about the challenges and rewards of a career in Astrophysics and space sciences at UCL, and reaching audiences of over 2000 pupils annually. Enquiries both for schools visits to the Observatory and for lectures delivered at schools can be made by contacting the Observatory.

Please note:

  1. Visits to the Observatory are available only for selected dates, normally for 11:00-13:00 or 14:00-16:00 sessions (see calendar, below). Visits to schools can be made at any mutually convenient time, by arrangement. Both elements of the programme are very popular, and bookings are made on a first-come, first-served basis.
  2. Group sizes for UCLO visits should normally be 15–30 students (we can't accommodate larger groups, and smaller groups don't make efficient use of our facilities).
  3. Unfortunately, the site is not wheelchair-friendly, with gravelled grounds and steep stairways; disabled visitors should contact us in advance to enquire about access.
  4. There is no on-site visitor parking (other than by advance arrangement for disabled visitors).
  5. Where schools have specific budgets for such activities, we will levy a modest charge to cover staffing costs. Otherwise, visits are free of charge.

    Dr Francisco Diego is a Senior Research Fellow in the UCL Astrophysics Group with decades of experience in astronomy outreach and delivery of astronomy talks in schools (KS2 to A-levels) as well as teaching the Certificate class at the UCL Observatory. Dr. Diego who is very active in astrophotography and travels often to sites of particular astronomical events is still involved in the School visits at the Observatory occasionally and often visits schools throughout the entire London area to deliver astronomy talks.

    Dates are now available from the 22nd of February 2017.
    (Depending on your browser settings, you may need to click on "Look for more" to see all available slots.)
    For bookings and other enquiries, contact Mrs Kay Nakum (kay.nakum@ucl.ac.uk; 020 3549 5807).

    Daytime school visits to the observatory

    School groups of 15–30 students visiting the observatory have a unique opportunity to explore and discover the world of the oldest of sciences, and to have a direct experience of a working professional Observatory, as they would do if they join UCL as undergraduate students in an astronomy-related degree. A typical visit programme is as follows:

    1. Arrival at the Observatory and welcome session in the lecture room.

    2. Tour of the Observatory, including the impressively large Radcliffe telescope, the oldest of our telescopes (the "Fry" telescope ) as well as our fully robotic units.

    3. Weather permitting, use of one of the telescopes to look at the sun with special protective filters able to show any large sunspots and also the image of the sun in the red light of hydrogen, which allows the detection of solar prominences (giant eruptions of hydrogen gas). In case of adverse weather conditions, the group will return to the lecture room for a session on the sun, including video footage of the kind of images normally seen when the sky is clear. There is time to ask questions about the visit and about relevant issues in the Science National Curriculum.

    A-level students visit the dome of the Radcliffe refracting telescope.

    A-level students visit the dome of the Radcliffe refracting telescope.


    Visiting lectures to schools

    Visiting lectures to schools have proven very popular too. Usually the audiences are between 100 and 200 pupils (several classes together). The sessions are highly interactive, mainly driven by a torrent of relevant questions about space, life in the universe and black holes.

    The lectures include colourful views from powerpoint presentations, with topics including:

    • Movements of the sky (constellations, mythology of the sky, early ideas)
    • The Magic of Solar and lunar eclipses (history, beliefs, beauty and science of eclipses)
    • The solar system (scale models, discovery and exploration of alien landscapes)
    • The lives of stars (stars as the producers of planets, life and people)
    • The secrets of star rainbows (basic spectroscopy and astrophysics)
    • Life in the Universe (What is life? Are we alone in the Universe?)
    • Our place in the Universe (How big and how old is the Universe?)

    There are also important links to related areas in the National Curriculum, like properties of materials, light, forces, chemistry and biology. The lectures can take place in a typical school classroom or even better in the assembly hall. A typical lecture will consist of an interactive presentation (around one hour) with practical demonstrations in which the children are welcome to participate.

    Weather permitting, students will be able to observe the sun in the light of the red hydrogen line, using a specialised portable solar telescope (funded by a grant from PPARC).

    Hydrogen image of the sun showing a few giant prominences on the edge as seen by school children with the portable telescope. The earth is shown to give a sense of scale.

    Hydrogen image of the sun showing a few giant prominences on the edge as seen by school children with the portable telescope. The earth is shown to give a sense of scale.


    In all cases, teachers get a pack with posters, graphic material, wall charts, and a video on solar eclipses co-produced by Dr Diego at UCL.

    KS 4 pupils use the portable hydrogen telescope to look at prominences on the sun.

    KS 4 pupils use the portable hydrogen telescope to look at prominences on the sun.