Year 7’s Planetarium Experience

Year 7 were given the opportunity last week to take their learning of Space a little further; (to infinity and) beyond their learning in the classroom.

We were joined by Alex, Ashley and Jazz who are studying and working in the Physics department at the University of Sussex. The Physics department provide a large range of activities on site at their campus in Brighton but also offer to visit schools and colleges across the County as part of their outreach programme supported by the South East Physics Network.

On this occasion, we were lucky enough to have their inflatable planetarium for the day. The planetarium, which is almost 8m in diameter and 4m high at the centre, took up residence in the drama studio.

Year 7 students visited throughout the day in their Science classes. Once sat in the planetarium, students were told to look up and enjoy the show. A 12-minute showing of the film ‘We Are Astronomers’ was projected across the ceiling of the dome. Students were taken to see the VLT (Very Large Telescope) situated in Chile before zooming off in to Space to learn more about the James Webb telescope which launched in to space on 25 December 2022. Initial planning for the JWT began in the 1990’s and it is hoped we will receive the first images from its location approximately 1 million miles away in the next few weeks.

Students also learned what the Electromagnetic Spectrum can tell us about other galaxies and other stars in those galaxies. They also found out about the work of the Large Hadron Collider, a 28km ring located on the Swiss-French border and how this helps us to understand more about the Universe we live in.

Following on from the show, students were then able to ask questions about any of what they’d seen or other questions about space and Physics. The space topic we teach in Term 1 of Year 7 always elicits lots of questions from students and this opportunity was no exception! Students ask lots of questions about the telescope, how far away certain celestial objects are, whether the Physicists think there is life somewhere else in the Universe and whether time travel was possible.

Our visitors did a brilliant job of answering these as best they could; some things we just don’t know yet! They also talked about their own interests in Physics and their passion for the subject and their studies really shone through. There was a real buzz about the event – before, during and after and we’re very grateful to Alex, Ashley and Jazz for giving up their time to ensure our students can experience Science outside of the classroom and find out more about the opportunities available to them.