More UK pupils could soon be peering through telescopes (Courtesy: RAS).
By Hamish Johnston
In 1609 the Tuscan polymath Galileo Galilei was the first astronomer to point a telescope skywards. He went on to discover sunspots, mountains on the Moon and four of the moons of Jupiter.
To mark this milestone in the development of modern science, the United Nations has declared 2009 the International Year of Astronomy.
Now, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of telescope-based astronomy, 1000 secondary schools in the UK will be given telescopes — paid for by the Society for Popular Astronomy, the Royal Astronomical Society and the UK science-research funding body STFC.
Given that light pollution and cloudy skies are all too common in much of Britain, I’m not sure what these high-school kids will see with their telescopes — but hopefully it will boost their interest in astronomy.
After peering through his telescope, Galileo was able to present solid evidence for the Copernican view that Earth orbited the Sun and not vice versa. Sadly, he was rewarded with the counter-reformation equivalent of an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO), which wasn’t lifted until 1992.
Hmm…is Galileo really a suitable role model for British teens?