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Langport pupils see stars

By This is Dorset  |  Posted: April 03, 2009

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YOUNGSTERS are taking a closer look at the night sky thanks to a new telescope at Huish Episcopi School and Science College in Langport.

The equipment was given to the school for free to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy.

It is one of 1,000 telescopes given to schools by the Society for Popular Astronomy and will be used to study the moon and other celestial wonders.

It will make the moon appear 60 times closer, when using a suitable eyepiece, and under good conditions will reveal galaxies at least 50 million light years away. It will also show the rings of Saturn and the major satellites of the giant planet Jupiter, which will be visible later in the year.

The school plans to hold several events during the year, including a chance to watch the moon through the telescope.

The equipment has been welcomed by head of ICT John Chuter, who has had a lifelong interest in astronomy and will be helping pupils get to grips with the telescope. He holds talks with groups at the school and for primary school pupils.

He said: "Astronomy has been a lifetime fascination of mine and, with it being the international year of astronomy, I think it is good we can promote it. Hopefully we will get more youngsters interested and produce some budding astronomers.

"We have mainly been using my own equipment, so we made a bid and were successful. It would be good if we could add to it in the future."

The International Year of Astronomy is being held to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first astronomical use of the telescope in 1609.

Thomas Harriot in England and Galileo in Italy observed the moon with the newly invented instrument.

Galileo's discoveries in particular helped to convince people the earth was not the centre of the universe, but orbited the sun.

It is also 40 years since the Apollo spacecraft landed on the moon.

Funding for the telescope was given by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, which usually makes much larger instruments available to professional astronomers. The project is also supported by the Royal Astronomical Society.

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