Irish Schools to Observe Jupiter with Installation of Planetary Radio Telescopes

Location of participating schools in the Connacht Schools Planetary Radio Telescope Network.
Jul 16 2018 Posted: 09:46 IST

The Europlanet Consortium, a €9.95 million project funded by the European Commission under Horizon 2020, has announced that it will be supporting the ‘Connacht Schools Planetary Radio Telescope Network’ through the 2018 round of its Outreach Funding Scheme, that aims to encourage new ways of bringing planetary science to audiences across Europe and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

The award will fund the installation of eight dual dipole antenna radio telescopes on the grounds of rural secondary schools in counties Galway, Roscommon and Mayo. Each radio telescope, about twenty feet long, ten feet high and looking rather like two washing lines, will be used by teachers and students to observe the equivalent of the northern lights above the polar regions of the planet Jupiter. These observations will contribute to the larger network of NASA’s Radio Jove facilities used to monitor the giant planet’s active magnetosphere, observing and analysing natural radio emissions of Jupiter, the Sun, and our galaxy. Observations can be conducted regardless of the weather, and the low population densities around each of the schools will limit the background ‘radio-frequency interference’. Each observatory when operational will feed real-time data to a server in NUI Galway.

The project leader, Dr Aaron Golden from the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Applied Mathematics in NUI Galway, explains: “Practical activities in astronomy have great potential for inspiring school students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects. However, there are limited opportunities due to the need for specialised equipment and facilities, to work at unsocial hours and, of course, clear skies, certainly for optical astronomy. Radio astronomy offers a very cost effective alternative for teachers and students to participate in actual observations of radio-bright objects such as the Sun and the planet Jupiter, and be able to participate in the wider astronomical community’s study of this most fascinating of the solar system’s planets.”

Participating schools in the Connacht Schools Planetary Radio Telescope Network:

  • Scoil Muire Agus Pádraig, Swinford, Co. Mayo.
  • Ardscoil Mhuire, Ballinasloe, Co. Galway.
  • Mount St. Michael Secondary School, Claremorris, Co. Mayo.
  • Coláiste Chiaráin, Athlone, Co. Roscommon.
  • Ballinrobe Community School, Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo.
  • Joseph’s Patrician College, Galway.
  • Presentation College Headford, Co. Galway.
  • Coláiste na Coiribe, Gaillimh.

The project, along with others selected as part of the Europlanet Public Engagement Prize and Funding Scheme Showcase will be formally launched at the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) 2018 in Berlin this September.

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