Denny High pupils helping Open University devise new astronomy course

The Denny pupils have been enjoying their project
The Denny pupils have been enjoying their project

Pupils at Denny High have been given the codes to one of the most advanced telescopes in the world.

They are helping the Open University develop a new astronomy course by testing software that will let people around the world order the Canary Island-based telescope to take pictures of deep space.

Dr Alan Cayless, an astronomer and staff tutor at the OU, commissioned the youngsters to help him test the technology on the PIRATE and COAST telescopes.

Dr Cayless said: “These pupils have the universe at their fingertips, and it has been incredible to see their interest in space and selecting the objects to be photographed.”

The teacher who runs 
the STEM club, Kathryn 
Sharp, said: “Projects like this bring science to life for our pupils.

“We’re constantly seeking new partnerships and collaborations to show our pupils where STEM subjects can take them. In this case it’s infinity and beyond!”

Dr Cayless intends to have the open access course available in the autumn, and to set up a subscription access to the telescope software so that more people can direct the telescope to the object of their choice.

He said: “There are lots of images available of the night sky, but there is something wonderful about choosing which cluster of stars you would like to see close up and having a telescope turn round and take a picture for you.

“These are some of the most beautiful structures ever created, glowing in all different colours and sizes. Messier developed his catalogue so that comet hunters wouldn’t be distracted by the other objects in deep space, but I suspect these beautiful objects still held their attention for a few moments at least.”

To find out more about the OU, visit www.open.ac.uk/scotland/.