The Messier Objects ProjectAugust 2016 - June 2017

A great educational opportunity: robotic telescopes

As a teacher you sometimes have the chance to participate in some great projects. Some other times you have the possibility to create something new from several available resources.

During the autumn 2016 and the spring 2017 we had the opportunity to start a collaboration with the IAC (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias) using one of the greatest robotic telescopes around the world, The Liverpool Telescope.

We used this huge piece of equipment to complement an existing activity that we used to do with our 6th grade primary education students, "The Messier Objects". In this activity the students did some research on any Messier object of their choice. After the public presentations we chose our favorite Messier object. This was all for some years, but...

Last August 2016, after a visit to the observatories of "El Roque de Los Muchachos" in La Palma (Canary Islands, Spain), I started looking for some information about the main telescopes that were operating there. One of them, the Liverpool Telescope, offered the possibility for non-universitary students to use a small fraction of their observing time (Peter program). This impressed me, and I immediately started looking on how to make the possibility true in our school, the Escola GEM (Mataró, Catalonia-Spain). "The Messier Objects Projects" was born.

The actvity was approved by the IAC and Liverpool Telescope teams and we had the chance to use this 2m telescope for 1h. The way that we did it was taking an incredibly detailed image of the "favorite Messier object". This was done during the September and October 2016 and during May and June 2017. The objects chosen were the spiral galaxy M74 and M16. The students got the raw data and had to compose a RGB image from the 3 channels. Nayra Rodríguez, astrophysicist from IAC, helped us.

The project was presented in the ESA workshops organized in Leiden last October 2016.

You can find some more information and images from the project in these links: video, webpage (in catalan).

And this is the article published by ASTRUM (Agrupació Astronòmica Sabadell, Spain) in December 2016: