Observing the Universe

National Curriculum Science Area: Science

Key Stage: 4 and post-16

Length of session: 1–2 hours

Maximum group size: 25–50 students

Suitable for 21st-Century Science GCSE unit 'Observing the Universe'.

In this hands-on session, students discover the story of Galileo’s telescope and how he used it to make observations that challenged the astronomical theories of his time.

This session offers students the opportunity to gain insight into the problems of astronomical observation and the significance of the telescope, and includes some elementary optical theory about lenses and ray diagrams.

Students will see a range of early astronomical instruments, from medieval astrolabes to the telescopes of the 18th century.

Students will take part in hands-on activities and the recreation of a 17th-century astronomical experiment. They will learn about the changing relationship between theory and observation in early-modern science and develop their understanding of how science works.