Canadians welcome CSU remote telescope upgrade

1 JANUARY 2003

High school science students in Manitoba, Canada, were the first to enjoy the enhanced operation of the CSU Remote Telescope in Bathurst when they took control of it on Friday 9 April following a recent fibre optic link upgrade.

Associate Professor David McKinnon and the CSU Remote TelescopeHigh school science students in Manitoba, Canada, were the first to enjoy the enhanced operation of the Charles Sturt University (CSU) Remote Telescope in Bathurst when they took control of it on Friday 9 April following a recent fibre optic link upgrade.
 
The new one and a half kilometre one gigabyte dedicated fibre optic connection provided in-kind by Country Energy, consisting of plant/labour and parts, benefits students across Australia and beyond, to ensure faster and more secure download times/viewing opportunities.
 
The initiator and administrator of the CSU Remote Telescope, Associate Professor David McKinnon, from the School of Teacher Education in Bathurst, praised the new link which ensures the viability of the long-running CSU project by providing up-to-date technological links to the Internet enabling students here and overseas to continue to study the universe as viewed from the Southern Hemisphere.
 
“The connection performed flawlessly and the speed was truly remarkable when the students from West Kildonan Collegiate Institute in Manitoba took control of the telescope between 1.45am and 3am (Australian time) last Friday,” Professor McKinnon said.
 
“The Canadians observed 15 objects ranging from asteroids in our solar system through to dying stars in our galaxy and other galaxies, and they were most impressed and appreciative of the opportunity to use CSU’s Remote Telescope.
 
“The critical link at the other end had enough bandwidth so that there was no noticeable slowing down of the video, voice, or the telescope interface. In the past, these have been problematic with our link between the observatory and the University, and necessitated me closing down the video link during a session. This time, however, the video remained open for the entire session,” Professor McKinnon said.
 
The students from West Kildonan Collegiate Institute were a combined group of Year 9 Astronomy and Year 12 Physics students organised and taught by physics teacher Mr Robin Edwards, who won the 2008 Best Science Educator award from the Science Teachers’ Association of Manitoba for his work with the CSU Remote Telescope.
 
Professor McKinnon said the telescope is used nightly, with serious high school observers obtaining data on stars that vary in brightness. Occasionally, classes of students and their teachers take control of the entire system to view the objects that the class wishes to observe. Each season, there will be a general webcast where the public can access the site, see images being taken by the telescope in their web browser, and interact with the observer.
 
Asked why school astronomy is important, Professor McKinnon said there are at least two reasons arising from the fact that people are curious about the universe and objects in it.
 
“Firstly, most people have never looked through a telescope at objects in space, let alone taken pictures with one. Thus, it motivates students to become engaged with this science, and, in the process, with other sciences. They ask scientific questions like ‘How big and how old is the universe? What are stars? How do supernovae happen? Is there life on other planets?’,” he said.
 
“Secondly, astronomy gives students access to a host of other curriculum areas (Key Learning Areas) such as English when they read, write, talk or listen; mathematics (measuring the diameter of the Sun with a simple pinhole camera, or measure the distance to our Moon using a five cent coin and a tape measure); creative arts in representing what they photograph or create t-shirt transfers made from the images they have taken. The educational extensions are vast.”

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Albury-Wodonga Bathurst Dubbo Orange Wagga Wagga Ontario, Canada Charles Sturt University Teaching and Education