Astronomers: the next generation

The Astronomy Education and Outreach session at this weeks NAM revealed lots of exciting events to look forward to over the next few years!

Iwan Williams (University of London) began the session by being happy that a small number of students were now beginning to get low grades in GCSE astronomy...! (The majority of GCSE students are 14-16 year old school children)

But why was Iwan happy about this? Well, it proves that a huge cross-section of school children with a wide range of abilities now have the chance to do GCSE astronomy in 'normal' schools, and not just the very best students in private schools. Some 1400 students did the GCSE Astronomy exams in the UK this year, up from 1200 students in the previous year.

Jacquie Milligan (Glenlola Collegiate Girls School) introduced us to how the Faulkes Telescopes are being used in her science lessons, even though she is a biologist. But rather than tell us herself how the project went, Jacquie's students came along and told us what they did for themselves! When two young schoolgirls speak so confidently about their work in front of an audience of experienced research astronomers, it gives great confidence in the future of UK science.

Paul Roche (Cardiff University) told us how big an asteroid was required to remove Aberystwyth from the map whilst leaving Snowdonia intact - by using an asteroid impact simulator! You can do the same for yourself at the Down2Earth website. And when the Deep Imact mission blasted a crater in an asteroid in 2004, school children were the first to take images of the event using the Faulkes Telescope. Paul also recommended using Google Earth to study asteroid impacts on the Earth. Can you find any? Meteor crater in Arizona is a good place to start looking...