School signs up star-gazing students

Published Thursday, 07 February 2013
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A group of girls have their stars in their eyes at one Bangor school but it isn't celebrities that these students are interested in.

School signs up star-gazing students
Twenty girls are doing the one-year GCSE course in astronomy at Glenlola. (© UTV)

A GCSE course in astronomy has had a huge interest from pupils at Glenlola Collegiate School in Bangor, with over forty signing up for the class.

"Forty-four girls won't fit in the classroom so we had to just select for maths ability," teacher Jacquie Milligan explained.

"There's actually a lot of maths in the course so we took the top half of the mathematicians."

It's the first time the all-girls grammar school has ever offered the subject and the students are taking on a challenge as not only are they doing the course in one year, they are only in their third year.

"We've never taught astronomy here at all, it's so hard to fit it into the GCSE timetable, because they are busy already, I taught some of these girls they do a little bit of astronomy in first year and they love it," Ms Milligan added.

The youngest enrolled in the course is just 13 years old and the 20 pupils are proving they so engaged with the topic they're attending classes after school and at weekends.

They scan the night sky for comets and other celestial objects on a telescope they helped to build and via a computer using the Faulkes telescope in Hawaii.

The girls will complete two pieces of coursework covering topics about stars, the earth, the moon and sun.

"I've discovered like a transneptunian object which is like an object which orbits outside of Pluto," one budding astronomer Amy Palmer told UTV.

"Pluto has an orbit of 248 years but this object that I helped discover has an orbit of 500 years so it's really exciting."

Ms Milligan said she is thrilled with the response she has received in the first year.

She said: "I thought by September, we'd have eight people still wanting to do this, I am amazed that so many of them have stayed the course because it is difficult."

© UTV News
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