Acclaimed for being the first person to discover radio pulsars whilst studying for her PhD at the University of Cambridge, Jocelyn Bel Burnell spoke to Red Maids’ about her work and encouraged girls to consider careers in what has traditionally been a male-dominated area.
Jocelyn opened a new observatory at school complete with computerised optical telescope and weather station – thought to be the first school-based facility of its kind in the Bristol area.
“There are very few schools with facilities such as this,” said Jocelyn. “The United Nations has designated 2015 as International Year of Light and, with this observatory and equipment, Red Maids’ is now in a strong position to see some amazing distant lights.”
“Jocelyn is a real inspiration to young women,” said Headmistress Isabel Tobias. “She is a highly-successful academic and I am sure the chance to meet such a high–profile scientist will encourage the girls to aim high and consider careers in physics and other sciences.”
This latest project builds on the success of the HiSparc project at Red Maids’ where students have been working with university academics and students from all over the world to study high-energy cosmic rays which are believed to influence weather patterns.
The new observatory will challenge students to look further into the origins of cosmic rays using data from the HiSparc detectors. With information from the weather station, girls will also be able to find out more about the climate and how the rate of cosmic showers is affected by changes in atmospheric pressure, humidity and temperature.
The observatory and weather station have been funded with £5,000 from the Barry Theo Jones Fund through Bristol Charities, £3,000 from the Friends of Red Maids’, with the remaining amount from Dr Mike Hebbron and the school’s science department.