ANU astronomers help Tassie kids reach for the stars

26 April 2021

Tasmanian students will get a better view of the southern night sky, with astronomers from The Australian National University (ANU) delivering powerful telescopes as well as lessons on how to use them.

The astronomers will visit high schools in Launceston, Exeter and Ulverstone as part of the Scientists Taking Astronomy to Regional Schools, or STARS, program - a joint initiative of ANU and the Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics in 3D (ASTRO 3D).

Dr Brad Tucker, from ANU and ASTRO 3D, said in addition to showing students how to use the eight-inch Dobsonian telescopes, once the Sun sets they will get to put lessons into practice with public star-gazing events.

"In areas like the north of Tasmania, away from city lights, the skies are very dark and filled with stars everywhere, a truly breathtaking sight," Dr Tucker said.

"But by using a good quality telescope you can see so much more. We hope that the students, schools and the communities will be able to make good, continuing use of the ones we bring.

"I hope they go on to develop detailed and inspiring astronomy projects for years to come, as well as a passion and love of science."

Dr Tucker will be joined by ANU astronomy graduate and Gamilaraay/Yuwaalaraay man from Mackay, Pete Swanton, who now works at the ANU Tjabal Indigenous Higher Education Centre.

"I'm looking forward to meeting with Indigenous students in the area and introducing them - and the wider community - to Indigenous interpretations of the night sky," he said.

The Tasmanian visit is the first leg of the STARS roadshow, which will see Dr Tucker and Mr Swanton head to primary and secondary schools across Australia for star-gazing, astronomy talks and workshops on how to use telescopes and record the data they capture.

Dr Delese Brewster, from ANU and ASTRO 3D, is one of the program's architects.

"Regional kids can study science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects at school, but access to STEM professionals and specialist programs is difficult because they are mainly located in larger towns and cities," Dr Brewster said.

"But regional kids have a huge advantage in astronomy. Our countryside has big skies with minimal light pollution. This program aims to inspire children across Australia to look up and explore the universe."

STARS is funded by a Federal Government Maker Projects: Community STEM Engagement grant, aimed at encouraging STEM education in schools.