Budding scientists receive ‘out of this world’ tour of University’s state-of-the-art Bayfordbury Observatory

 4 July 2024 3 July 2024
4 July 2024

Young Hertfordshire students from Laureate Academy in Hemel Hempstead went a bit further than most on their latest school trip – when they got to tour the universe, courtesy of the University of Hertfordshire’s observatory.

The Year 7 students, aged 11 and 12, who have a mix of special learning needs, were introduced to astronomy, given a planetarium show and had a look around some of the Bayfordbury Observatory’s solar telescopes.

The students also learnt about the James Webb Space Telescope on their visit, which is responsible for making some of the world’s most astonishing astronomical discoveries in recent years.

The school visit formed part of the University’s outreach programme of schools and community work to help others learn and understand about the skills and science of astronomy and astrophysics.

It is the third trip that students from Laureate Academy have made to the observatory since 2021. Laureate Academy’s website says, “it is important that young people are fully prepared for the world beyond the school gates”, and that is certainly what they achieved!

Andre Morgan, science teacher at Laureate Academy, said:

“These students in particular benefit from this type of experience when they can see and touch something to help place it into the real-world. They don’t necessarily have the same academic advantages that some children do, but they have so many talents and abilities so we try and give them a range of activities that make studies more relevant and help them learn and to see the world of science as achievable.”

The students looked inside the oldest and the newest observatories – the newest was installed in September 2021 and has a 60 cm (24 inch) diameter mirror, which is automated so it can work any time of night when there are clear skies.

Bayfordbury Observatory is one of the best equipped observatories in UK education and the University’s astrophysics team is internationally renowned, with some 30 postgraduate researchers and 40 research astrophysics staff.

Mily Riley, Bayfordbury Education Officer and Ashley Coombs, Outreach and Public Engagement Assistant, provided the day’s information and acted as tour guides for the worlds beyond the telescopes.

Mily Riley said:

“While we are doing some of the most advanced astrophysics work across the world, we are also very keen to contribute to our local communities and, in particular, involve and inspire local young people who often have no direct access to this kind of work, and therefore struggle to ever really understand it. Not only do they learn far more by interacting with our astronomy equipment, but it often helps evoke lots of new questions and interest in what’s happening in our universe and beyond, which in itself can generate all kinds of new discussions and theories.”

Ashley Coombs added,

“The students engaged well throughout their trip, asking many insightful questions, and showing a keen interest in astronomy and Bayfordbury Observatory. Events like this allow the next generation of scientists to explore their possibilities and have access to encouragement, guidance and support that would otherwise not be on offer to them.

“All members of the public are welcome at Bayfordbury Observatory. Through our website you can view our open evenings and community visits where you can book a guided tour of the observatory and the chance to use our telescopes.”

Find out more about visiting Bayfordbury Observatory or about studying astronomy and astrophysics at Herts.


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