The Year 2 pupils of Sutton Valence Preparatory School recently visited the East Sussex’s Observatory Science Centre which coincided with the handing over of a Coronado 90mm solar telescope.
Earlier in September, Herstmonceux held its 10th Astronomy Festival, during which there was a solar world record attempt to create the largest image of the sun from a mosaic of over 150 separate images.
As a result of this, the Observatory was approached by Stephen Ramsden, the director of the US-based Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project in the USA, and his team, to receive the solar telescope with the remit that “it is used as much as possible”.
The scientist was in the UK to attend the astronomy photography awards in London and to give talks, lectures and promote solar outreach activities, so decided to visit in person to hand over the mammoth telescope.
The Prep School pupils listened in awe as Mr Ramsden told them about space, answered their questions and gave them solar glasses so they could look at the sun before inviting them to be the first to look through the enormous new telescope.
Charlie Bates is a non-profit organization which not only promotes solar astronomy and science, but also donates resources where it can to enable other clubs and organizations to do the same.
Prep School head, Malcolm Gough, said: “The visit was part of the pupil’s study into ‘infinity and beyond’. They explored hands-on science exhibits through hearing, seeing and feeling, focusing on the earth and beyond and worked together to balance platforms, create sound waves and investigate pulleys – and were in awe when the Observatory roof opened to reveal the skies beyond.
“The fact their trip coincided with the handover of the telescope was a real coup and they were thrilled to meet a ‘real’ scientist and quiz him about space.”
The day ended with a fascinating science show where the children were dressed as famous scientists and allowed to create explosions.
Jo Harris, education/operations director at Herstmonceux, said: “We have a strong reputation for our educational visits and our ethos that learning should be interactive and fun, is a perfect complement to all of Stephen’s outreach work.
“We were thrilled to receive this telescope and it was a privilege that Stephen managed to fit a visit to Herstmonceux into his very tight schedule. It was an exciting bonus for the children from Sutton Valence who were thrilled to be the first to use it.”