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Blog

UK schools to get 1000 telescopes

ras.jpg
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?

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4 comments

  1. michele cini

    I am an Italian physicist, born in Pisa, Galielo’s birthplace, although I teach Physics at the second University in Rome.
    Do you know that in Pisa there is a very beautiful way along the Arno, the Lungarno Galilei, but still there is no significant monument of Galileo, a man who improved the history of mankind? And in 2008 the pope is still recurrently obsessed by fears against science, more than his precedessor, while our governement is cutting funds to the valid but already downsized research Institutions of Italy?

  2. WestHighlander

    The greatest contribution to education of the public of this quadriCentennial of Galileo as Astronomer would be the recognition of Galileo as the father and uncle of solar astronomy. He initiated the process of observing the sun routinely and his careful and detailed observations identified solar rotation and the progression of the sunspot cycle. Thanks to Galileo and his fame — since 1610 we have an instrumental record of solar activity of unique length that can be extended back for thousands of years through the use of Be and C radioisotopes measured in ice cores and tree rings respectively.
    In a sense we now have the tools for the ultimate Copernican Revolution — confirmed by Galileo‚Äôs data — specifically, solar activity data can enable us to dispense with the Ptolemaic hubris of Anthropogenic Global Warming. Galileo’s Greatest Gift to us is initiating the collection of the data. Now 400 years later we can once and for all realize that it is the Sun that is responsible for the bulk of the observed variation in the earth’s climate. I think Galileo would be pleased and the recently identified bones of Copernicus will finally rest in peace.

  3. Dinesh

    Galileo was greatest in a sense that he had the courage to speak out what he observed and got convinced as correct, despite knowing that he may have to face trial( though he did not anticipate it).
    There existed another man who made Copernicus’s prediction as early as the 2nd century AD and got convinced with it even without the aid of a telescope.The great man of Indian origin is Aryabhatta, a renowned mathematician and astronomer also the first to calculate the value of Pi.

  4. Sydney

    It’s good to know that they are encouraged their students as well as making a resource of knowledge. The greatest contribution to education of the public of this quadric Centennial of Galileo as Astronomer would be the recognition of Galileo as the father and uncle of solar astronomy. He initiated the process of observing the sun routinely and his careful and detailed observations identified solar rotation and the progression of the sunspot cycle.
    Sydney
    get that job uk

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