Head of Science, Mr Hopkin, has launched a new Astronomical Society at Westonbirt. You can read his report below about how he is reminding students to look up at the world around them:
It was during the second lockdown that I decided to create our Westonbirt Astronomical Society. Personally, I have fond memories of camping as a child, and staring up at the night sky, looking for shooting stars. Astronomy is one of two subjects I’d like to go back to school to study (Welsh is the other
one, in case you were wondering). Indeed, I see being able to talk about the stars, planets, constellations and features of the luna landscape as part of science’s rich cultural capital.
The telescope we use was won for the Science Department by a Westonbirt student, Arwen, when she was victorious in the Gloucestershire Fame Lab Academy. It has sat quietly in a box, in a corner of a prep room, waiting to be built and pointed heavenwards. Thanks must go out to Lauren, Susannah and Ollie, part of the first cohort of Astro. Soc., who put the telescope together, before the summer. Since then, we have waited for the dark evenings to set in, so that we might peer through the telescope (it’s an ‘Orion AstroView 90mm EQ’!) for the first time.
During the first half-term of this academic year, a mixture of Year 7 to 11 students have been learning
about the life cycle of stars, key features of the Moon, the relative sizes of some stars and planets, and built some simple astronomical telecscopes. This has also been interspersed with watching the film ‘Hidden Figures’, which we whole-heartedly recommend. If you have not seen it, it tells the true story of three “female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in N
ASA during the early years of the U.S. space program” (IMDb), during the 1960s.
However, since the clocks ‘went back’, it is now dark enough when we meet (on a Wednesday, after tea, in Lab 1) to be able to finally use our telescope. So, having read about how to best locate, and use, the Orion AstroView, we carried the telescope into the Italian Gardens (a wonderful location!), as far away from ambient light as we could get, placed it on the grass (so that our image would not be affected by any heat radiated from a concrete or tarmacked surface) and allowed the temperature of the telescope to adjust to its surroundings (again, so as not to cause any aberration of our images). After spending a rather long time trying to look at the planet Venus (aka the ‘evening star’), the first celestial object to be seen with the na
ked eye in the night sky, we finally achieved some success, although we were rather underwhelmed!
Fast-forward to the next meeting, and with renewed vigour, we tried to observe the Moon, a much larger, and we hoped, easy target to focus upon!. With a couple of tweaks to our ‘finder scope’ we produced a beautiful image of a (nearly) full Moon, which, thanks to the patient of Mila, we managed to capture on a camera. We hope that you enjoy our photo too.
Not quite to infinity and beyond, but next week we shall be thinking about ‘The Big Bang’.