Astronomy Students Look Upward with New Telescopes

Astronomy Students peer into their newly-assembled telescopes during an early-morning class on Wednesday.

Astronomy Students peer into their newly-assembled telescopes during an early-morning class on Wednesday.

BRONX, NY – It’s a bird!  It’s a plane!  Actually – it’s a close-up look at a far-away star.  Students in the Harry S Truman High School Astronomy class have a brand new way of examining the sky overhead, thanks to the recent delivery of  eight new telescopes.   Truman is already the home to the only planetarium in the Bronx, and one of only five planetariums in all of New York City.

“Nothing beats the real thing,” according to Astronomy teacher Mrs. Kathleen Robbins. She says that having the planetarium is an invaluable tool, but being able to be outdoors and exploring the sky creates an entirely new and engaging experience for the students.

The sun casts long shadows behind students as they practice setting up and focusing brand new telescopes.

The sun casts long shadows behind students as they practice setting up and focusing brand new telescopes.

“I’ve never used a telescope before,” said Truman senior Cleopatra Green.  “It’s really neat.  When you use the telescope, suddenly everything’s in your face, as if it was right in front of you… so it’s pretty cool.”

“It was great.  It was really a productive struggle,” Mrs. Robbins said.  “They were really freaking out like ‘I can’t find it… I can’t find it… oh! I got it!'”

Students were not just handed the devices to use.  The class actually worked together to assemble the telescopes from their individual parts.  The goal of the first class exercise was just to build familiarity with them.

“So we’re just using points around Co-Op [City],” Robbins said. “We found a bird’s nest we weren’t expecting to find.”

Co-Op City serves as the backdrop as students learn to assemble and use telescopes during their astronomy class.

Co-Op City serves as the backdrop as students learn to assemble and use telescopes during their astronomy class.

The students are now working to install special filters on the telescopes that will allow them to safely peer directly into the sun.

“In order to use that we have to cut it and shape it to fit the lens, so we’re trying to figure out how to do that,” Green said.  “Honestly – I want to see solar flares or sun spots.  I don’t know if we can see that with the telescopes, but it would be really cool if we could.”

Mrs. Robbins says she plans to host sky viewing events during the winter, when the sky is dark early in the evening.

Students will install solar filters that will allow them to study the sun in real time.

Students will install solar filters that will allow them to study the sun in real time.

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