Hammersmith students reach for the stars

Hammersmith Academy school children are taking part in a scientific initiative designed by Noosphere – the philanthropic foundation founded by Russian philanthropist Yelena Baturina, in association with the Mayor’s Fund for London’s Discovery in a Week initiative.

Also supported by the Yelena Baturina’s BE Open Foundation, the initiative’s aim is introduce young people from across London to the fascinating world of astronomy. The Discovery in a Week projects bring together PHD astronomy students from the UCL’s Physics and Astronomy department to mentor secondary school pupils. London children will join those from Moscow and professional astronomers to discuss and exchange thoughts and ideas during weekly Skype conferences.

Currently children from six London schools – Hammersmith, Forest Gate Community School, Sanders, Mount Carmel, Lister Community College, UCL Academy – are not only enhancing their theoretical knowledge, but also making real astronomic discoveries by analysing pictures produced by a powerful telescope in Australia. By the end of the year 20 London schools will be taking part.

Discovery in a Week is a project that not just introduces young people to the fascinating world of astronomy, but by producing real scientific results gives them a rewarding educational experience that broadens their intellectual horizons, while fostering a keen interest in scientific research to last for years to come.

The stars discovered by children will be recorded in the International Variable Star Index, while the coordinates of the asteroids detected will be sent to the Minor Planet Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. During the pilot launch of the programme only, the students at Hammersmith and UCL Academies identified 9 new variable stars in the Centaurus and Libra constellations. All the stars discovered are now officially named after their young discoverers.

The aim of Discovery in a Week is to continue to extend the scope of this initiative to a broader range of schools over the next few years, as well as create an international network of enthusiastic young observers and researchers by encouraging children from different countries to exchange their astronomical experience and ideas during regular conferences.

Yelena Baturina, Founder of Noosphere said:

“We are very excited that more and more schools join the ‘Discovery in a Week’ project. Over 10 years, we have implemented a variety of projects aimed at bringing people together, improving understanding and promoting freedom of thought. And we hope that looking at the sky will encourage younger generations to think globally, approach the world with an informed, open and universal perspective”.

The programme was made possible thanks to the Russian philanthropic foundation Noosphere in partnership with the Mayor’s Fund for London, and with support from the BE OPEN foundation. Since 2008, Noosphere has conducted its educational projects across schools in India, Israel, Bulgaria, Romania and Austria.

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