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Headlines Published on 12 April 2005

Title Young Europeans sight the stars with SkyWatch

Distant galaxies are a classroom abstraction for most students – until they are given the chance to peer into deep outer space and its panoply of comets, exploding novas and swirling solar systems. Getting young people interested in astronomy lies at the heart of the SkyWatch contest, part of the European Science Week designed to raise awareness of the links between science and society.

Ask the astronomer! Part of SkyWatch’s site where you can submit your questions about astronomical objects and phenomena. © SkyWatch
Ask the astronomer! Part of SkyWatch’s site where you can submit your questions about astronomical objects and phenomena.
© SkyWatch
The goal of the SkyWatch project is intriguing: to engage young people in astronomy by offering them interactive access to SkyWatch’s web-portal and its network of five remotely-controlled robotic telescopes. These are located across Europe, from England to Las Palmas to Greece.

To generate a wide interest in astronomy, SkyWatch is sponsoring a contest pitched to three age groups: students less than 15 years old, students between 15 and 18 years old, and adults.   At the same time, SkyWatch will launch a series of popular science distance-learning courses throughout the year. Functioning as an on-line campus for scientific quests, SkyWatch’s portal aims to link secondary school and university students in 28 European countries, as well as visitors at science centres, parks and museums, eventually forming a virtual community of young people, the wider public and scientists involved in astronomy.

The contest involves competing projects in five areas: the sun, planets and moons, asteroids, the birth and death of stars and, lastly, galaxies. Acting alone or in pairs, participants from across Europe will use SkyWatch’s telescope network to generate astronomical data for their chosen project. During the contest, there will be specific ‘Science Days’ devoted to on-line presentations and discussion of issues related to the projects.

Showing off Europe’s scientific talent

The contest began in March and will see the 30 best projects selected from all entries during the first phase, followed by a second-phase selection of the best three projects from each age category whose participants will travel expense-free to Athens for the final phase and prizes.  The award ceremony is timed to coincide with the European Science Week in November.

Fostering support and enthusiasm for outer space is just one of the goals behind the European Science Week, the EU-sponsored platform for moving science and technology to centre stage in the public’s mind.  It is important for governments, policy-makers and the research community itself to demonstrate the links between science and Europe’s socio-economic development – especially to young people and the general public.

The EU’s science awareness programmes, part of the Science and Society programme, tackle this problem head on by “showing rather than telling” young Europeans how the results of research affect their lives with examples of co-operation, innovation and excellence in all fields of scientific endeavour.  Previous Science Week projects have showcased the transit of Venus across the sun, the benefits of superconductivity in everyday life and the ingenuity of robot designs.

Source:  SkyWatch and EU sources

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More information:

  • SkyWatch (home page)

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