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School projects

Light pollution survey

How dark are the skies above your school? Find out by taking part in a global light pollution survey. Spot the constellation Orion, count the stars, send in your results - and see how you compare to places around the world.

Globe at night (www.globe.govGaN) invites schools to carry out light pollution surveys between March 8-21.

Constellation project

This uses astronomy to bring together science and history in the stars.

Imagine you are standing on the North Star looking at Earth through a giant telescope... Is this possible? What would you see? Amazingly, if this could be done, you'd see life on Earth in 1576! It's because of the speed of light.

Robotic telescopes

These bring live images (and a little of Hawaii) into your classroom. Take control of a research standard telescope at one of the world's top observing sites - and bring images of galaxies right into your classroom.

How about staging a live observing session for pupils and parents? An overview of robotic telescopes shows how you can do this with projects like the Faulkes telescope http:faulkes-telescope.com

All this is to be delivered by experts from the Glasgow Science Centre, the Institute of Physics and amateur astronomy groups, says Dan Hillier of the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh. They are experts in education as well as astronomy: "That's essential, for credibility with teachers and for knowing what works with kids."

Powerful eyeball

Astronomy in the Forest - two days of family stargazing and educational activities near Banchory in Aberdeenshire, from February 9 - is the first scheduled Dark Sky Scotland event. The teachers' workshop there, as elsewhere, will follow a format developed and tested by science educators and the Royal Observatory Edinburgh.

"First, we show teachers how to find their way around the sky," says Dan Hillier. "The constellations don't change but their positions do. We use simplified charts to tell the story of changes through the night and during the year. We show them how to use the website Heavens Above. That gives them a map of the night sky for any place at any time. They now have the basis for a successful observing session."

They are then introduced to the Faulkes telescope, a professional instrument teachers can use across the internet. "To get the best out of it, they need to know their way around the sky, which they have just learned. It is just a more powerful eyeball."

See www.darksky.scotland.org.uk

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