Astronomy Club Returns to Bayfordbury Observatory
Our extremely popular and very long running Astronomy Club returned to the Bayfordbury Observatory on the evening of January 25 for another fascinating and enlightening visit.
Driven in the school minibus by Mr Bullock, all eyes were on the heavens as they headed north. Clear winter skies are wonderful for star gazing, but unfortunately, as is so often the way, thick clouds had gathered and hopes of any live telescope viewing were dashed.
However, there is plenty to see and do at Bayfordbury apart from looking through a telescope. The Hertfordshire Uni's graduate and post-graduate students gave us two talks on 'Black Holes and Nebulae' and 'The Night Sky and Our Solar System'. Following these was a tour of the observing area, comprising three radio and several optical telescopes housed inside their unmistakable domes.
What is Bayfordbury Observatory?
Situated approximately 13 miles north of Canons High near Hertford, county town of Hertfordshire, the University of Hertfordshire's Astronomical and Atmospheric Physics Remote Sensing Observatory, to give it it's full official name, was established back in 1967 when Astronomy was suggested as a new course the university could offer.
Three years later it officially opened with a 16 inch telescope for visual or photographic observations.
Fast forward to 2024 and it now features 7 large optical telescopes, solar telescopes, 4 radio telescopes and a range of smaller instruments. The telescopes are housed inside the distinctively shaped, high-quality, motorised Ash domes.
In the news.
A project led by the university has spent 10 years studying almost a billion starts in the Milky Way, with 'Old Smoker' a new type of giant red star being discovered near the centre of the galaxy.
Special thanks to Principal Mr D Bullock for driving us safely there and back again, and to the staff who accompanied us on this trip; Mrs B Ganguli-Roy, Miss J Mendonca and Ms J Baah. You are all stars!
Reaching for the stars
by Dr. Bijita Ganguli-Roy (Science)
"We were greeted by their Astronomy research students Mark, Lord, Sanjita and Om who took us on a journey of discovery through the universe.
We were given an intriguing presentation of how stars are formed, how various EM radiations are used to pick up signs of dust clouds to investigate stars and their formation. We delved into dwarf stars and black holes, where the research was explained into discovering and mapping stars as part of their PhD research. So inspirational and the quality of the modelling and imagery were simply out of this world!
The researchers answered our students’ questions:
- How do we know that the Big Bang really happened?
- Did we really land on the moon? – Opinion was divided!
- Are there aliens in space?
- Mr Bullock wanted to know if ‘warp speed’ was possible- in theory yes!
- We also learnt that - Star Wars doesn’t always get it right, as a parsec is a measure of distance and not time!
It was good to hear the travel experiences of the researchers to Germany, Chile and Hawaii. Far-away places to adventure and to avoid white light, get high up in the atmosphere where the air is thinner and close to ports to enable easy transport of the equipment straight to your location.
We were questioned on our own knowledge of gravity to understand how dust clouds form stars and the role of plasma. Something that we could perhaps consider in updating our curriculum.
After the presentation we stepped into the planetarium where we journeyed to the rocky planets and then on to the gas giants of our solar system. We meandered through the constellations named by the Ancient Greeks- (For those not in the know, it was a bit of a guessing game to match the shapes to their names!)
Finally, we went on a walk towards the signal dishes and telescopes housed inside mini observatories where the roofs spun around mechanically and could be opened to the skies to research the heavens. We learnt about how these telescopes worth around (£100, 000) worked. Unfortunately, we were unable to see any heavenly bodies for ourselves due to the weather, but the researchers positioned an image of Jupiter strategically so that we could observe the image of the Giant planet with its rings through a telescope for ourselves.
It is essential that we present our students with super curricular opportunities to inspire. With the duty of universities to share their work with the public and particularly their role in capturing the imagination of school pupils, the Bayfordbury Observatory did a fantastic job with their journey through the universe.
We need to encourage our students towards the journey to the stars and continue our invaluable extra-curricular trips. A big thank you to fellow colleagues Jasmine Mendonca, Jacqueline Baah, Stephen Crook and David Bullock who supported this trip. On a personal note, I am expanding my knowledge of Physics and Astronomy. We could perhaps tweak our teaching to introduce the concept of plasma. By supporting our students on multiple fronts, together we can help our next generation to boldly go where no one has gone before………."
Canons Astronomy Club was set up many years ago by enthusiastic amateur Astronomer Mr S Crook of our IT Support Team, and has been very popular with both boy and girl students ever since.
As well as star gazing, Mr Crook and his club members have the use of normal optical telescopes, a special solar telescope and data and online connections to remote astronomical sites. Mr Crook even has a solar flare radiation detecting array set up in his office!
They also re-examine both historical and modern investigations and discoveries into the nature of our planet, solar system, galaxy and the known universe.
Club meetings are on Thursdays after school in room CS3
Seek out Mr Crook for more info, or visit the club's special website.