An online robotic telescope that offers live observations is part of a new project created to support the teaching of physics and general science in the classroom.
Run by a group of professional astronomers from the Association for Astronomy Education, the virtual telescope will bring comets, planets, galaxies and asteroids into the classrooms of both primary and secondary schools.
The main aim of the project is to encourage pupils who may otherwise never want to approach studying physics to become excited by astronomy and space with the opportunity to make their own scientific discoveries.
Once in place, the network of telescopes will have the ability to provide rapid observations of sudden changes in astronomical objects, such as violent gamma ray bursts, supernovae and variable stars.
The telescope is the brainchild of Gianluca Masi and is set in the Italian town of Ceccano, 90km from Rome. On a clear night it becomes accessible from the Bellatrix observatory run by Dr Masi and is fully robotic.
Sotira Trifourki, the UK co-ordinator of the telescope, said: "Allowing the UK access to robotic telescopes with no restrictions on observing for specified astronomical objects and allowing unlimited real time observing will strengthen the educational aspects. The possibilities for supporting science in the national curriculum for classroom and current research activities are endless."