Kiwi students can share heavenly view

Kiwi students can share heavenly view

A new internet telescope based at The University of Western Australia will give high school students the opportunity to discover new planets and exploding stars in distant galaxies.

And New Zealand students can access the telescope, provided there is sufficient interest.

The research-grade instrument, which is accessible to schools across WA initially, will allow students to measure the positions of asteroids and comets, and potentially discover new minor planets and exploding stars in distant galaxies.

The SPIRIT initiative has been developed by the secondary teachers’ enrichment programme, SPICE, and the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), with support from the School of Physics at UWA.

The telescope is housed in a 3.5m dome observatory on the roof of UWA’s Physics Building. SPIRIT’s primary mirror, with a diameter of 35cm, is capable of viewing objects hundreds of millions of light-years away.

Students will be able to either request a timeslot in the telescope’s night schedule, or control the telescope live in real time.

Paul Luckas, from SPICE, said SPIRIT was a unique initiative that would allow high school students to conduct significant scientific research.

“Students now have access to the same tools used by professional astronomers around the world, without needing any special software,” Mr Luckas said.

ICRAR director, Professor Peter Quinn said the Centre aimed to achieve research excellence in astronomical science and engineering. “By combining our strengths with SPICE, we can extend the boundaries of academic excellence in astronomy into Western Australian high schools,” Professor Quinn said.

Associate Professor Jan Dook told Education Review that initially the telescope would be for WA students, “but we anticipate extending use out – no reason New Zealand students will not be included if there is interest.”

Dook says interested New Zealand teachers should contact her: jdook@cyllene.uwa.edu.au

or go to www.spice.wa.edu.au/internet_telescope/ n

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