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Pupils learn science behind the solar eclipse at UCLan

19 March 2015

Lyndsey Boardman

University experts inspire youngsters to look to the sky for rare event  

Budding young Lancashire astronomers are well prepared to look to the sky for tomorrow’s partial solar eclipse thanks to a stargazing event at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Pupils from eight local schools in Preston and East Lancashire met UCLan astronomy and solar physics experts today ahead of what is expected to be the biggest solar eclipse in over 15 years as the Moon moved to cover a large area of the Sun to people watching from Earth.

Not only were they given special dark glasses that allowed them to watch the eclipse safely, the Years 7 and 8 students learned how to calculate the speed at which material is ejected from the Sun, known as coronal mass ejections, using data from the NASA STEREO mission. Additional data from the Japanese Yohkoh and Hinode missions meant they were also able to investigate the constant changing activity of The Sun and monitor its solar cycles.

“This phenomenal event is rare so we wanted to make sure the young people were equipped to watch it safely and also understand how and why it is happening."

UCLan lecturer Dr Danielle Bewsher from the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute for Mathematics, Physics & Astronomy commented: “This phenomenal event is rare so we wanted to make sure the young people were equipped to watch it safely and also understand how and why it is happening.

“Being able to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to such an exciting real-life scientific event is a great way to inspire and enthuse the next generation of scientists.”

The Preston schools that attended the event were Ashton Science College, Our Lady’s Catholic High School, Longridge High School, Fulwood Academy, Moor Park High School and Sixth Form. They were joined by Shuttleworth College, and Witton Park Academy from East Lancashire.

“We’ve been learning how to calculate the speed of gases and Sun flares which was really interesting. When I watch the solar eclipse tomorrow I will know more about the science behind it and why it’s happening.”

Shannon Roberts, a 12-year-old pupil from Longridge High School, commented: “It’s been interesting to learn how a solar eclipse works and know what to look for tomorrow. It’s exciting as I’ve never seen anything like this before and I’m looking forward to seeing the halo of the Sun during the eclipse.”

Our Lady’s Catholic High School pupil 13-year-old Jaraar Khan wants to be a physicist when he’s older. He said: “We’ve been learning how to calculate the speed of gases and Sun flares which was really interesting. When I watch the solar eclipse tomorrow I will know more about the science behind it and why it’s happening.”

Jonathan Show, a 12-year-old pupil from Shuttleworth College, added: “It’s great that we’ve been given special glasses as it will be really cool to look at the Sun; I also found out there is an eclipse every year which is amazing.”

The event was run by the UCLan Solar Group in conjunction with the Ogden Trust; a charitable trust that aims to promote the teaching and learning of physics. UCLan has a long history of research into the Sun and in 2013, in collaboration with NASA, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and other partners, it captured the highest resolution images ever achieved of the Sun’s outer atmosphere (corona) with the High Resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C).