Scottish Children Make New Constellation

June 30, 2009

An imaginary mouse (temporarily) occupied part of the sky, as the winning entry for a competition to design a new constellation for the International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2009). The mouse or “ËœWee Sleekit Beastie’ (or “ËœOde to a Mouse’) was created by Laura, a year 7 pupil at Dalmeny Primary School in Edinburgh. She received the award from Liz Lochead, the Scottish Poet Laureate, in a ceremony in the planetarium at Glasgow Science Center on 30th June.

In the Constellation Project for IYA 2009, 8 schools across the country were linked to an important astronomy site and selected a star whose distance in light years corresponded to the site’s age. For example, children at Coupar Angus Primary School were linked to the Mills Observatory in Dundee, built in 1935. Their star, Aldebaran is 65 light years away, so the light left a little after the Observatory opened. Two schools in the Orkney islands, Sanday and Stronsay, were linked to the oldest site, Maes Howe, which was built around 5000 years ago. So the Orcadian pupils chose the Double Cluster in the constellation in Perseus, a group of stars so far away that the light left them when our ancestors constructed the famous monument in the Neolithic era.

The children at the 8 schools used the 8 selected stars as the framework for their constellations. More than 200 pupils sent in entries, including the 2nd prize “ËœMermida’ (Laura, Lauder Primary School) and equal 3rd prizes “ËœLost in the Jungle’ (Abdur, Glendale Primary School) and “ËœSeraurora, the Whisperer of Lights’ (Ruby, Broadford Primary School).

The winners received their prizes in the planetarium at the Glasgow Science Center on 30th June, where Professor John Brown, Astronomer Royal for Scotland, introduced the project and Liz Lochead recited her poem “ËœFrom a Mouse’. Starting with the giant mouse, the children then saw the winning entries projected onto the stars on the dome of the planetarium.

Professor Brown was delighted by the enthusiasm of the pupils. “Astronomy has the power to inspire children and get them excited about the Universe we live in. This competition let them express their imagination in science, art and poetry – my congratulations to everyone who took part.”

Roger Meachem, Headteacher of Dalmeny Primary School commented “Staff are excited, children are delighted. And I’m over the Moon. It’s great to see how science can be so popular with our pupils.”

Laura, the Year 7 pupil at the same school added “Science is fun and extremely fascinating. There is so much to learn. Astronomy is my main interest now and I will stick with it for life I hope.”

Image Caption: The new (temporary) constellation ‘Wee Sleekit Beastie’ or ‘Ode to a Mouse’ created by Laura, a year 7 pupil at Dalmeny Primary School, Edinburgh.

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