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Wednesday, December 2, 1998 Published at 09:19 GMT


Children to control remote telescope

The Arthur Weller Gallery hopes to inspire children.

BBC Science Correspondent Sue Nelson reports
A UK scientist is funding the world's largest educational telescope.

Dr Dill Faulks is paying 2m towards a telescope, which is currently being built on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

[ image: Dil Faulks: Children will be in control]
Dil Faulks: Children will be in control
When completed, school children around the UK will be able to remotely control the telescope through a Web site.

Dr Faulks studied cosmology before a career in computers. His donation is in recognition of his own state school education.

There are other such telescopes already in operation including the Bradford Robotic Telescope in the North of England. But at two metres, the Faulks telescope will be the biggest.

Serious research

"This is a serious research tool," Dr Faulks told the BBC. "The children in school will be able to set up particular projects, be it looking at the Solar System, galaxies - whatever they want to look at. They can allocate the time to point the telescope wherever they want to and take the pictures they want, and see them real-time."

Dr Dill Faulks: "This is a serious telescope"
This is helped by the telescope's location in Hawaii. Not only can the instrument take advantage of the clearer skies over the Pacific but it is also night-time in Hawaii when UK children are in school.

The project will be fully operational by 2001.

Matt Flintoff reports from the observatory
It will be managed by a team of astronomers based at the Old Royal Observatory in Greenwich, which plans to make the networked telescope a centrepiece of its new Arthur Weller Gallery.

Name change

The announcement comes on a momentous day for the observatory which is the home of Greenwich Mean Time and focal point for Millennium celebrations.

[ image: The Duke of York opened the new gallery]
The Duke of York opened the new gallery
It is taking back its original name. It will once again be known as the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

Officials say the name change reflects a new role for the 323-year-old observatory, teaching the public about astronomy after the recent closure of the confusingly named Royal Observatory Greenwich in Cambridge.

Founded in 1675, the Greenwich site was known as the Royal Observatory Greenwich until 1954. The title travelled to Hertsmonceaux Castle, East Sussex, when astronomers set up base there three years later and travelled again when they decamped to Cambridge in 1990, a site that shut down in October.

In the meantime, the original observatory was turned into a museum and had added the "Old" to its title.

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