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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 December, 2003, 17:43 GMT
Pupils operate robot telescope
Students view telescope pictures
Pupils will be able to study full-colour pictures of deep space
Schoolchildren across the UK will soon be able to view distant galaxies directly through two powerful telescopes based on the other side of the world.

The Faulkes Telescope Project, led by astronomers from Cardiff University, will allow children to study the cosmos from their own classroom, via the internet.

Children will able to steer the robot telescopes - in Hawaii and Australia - from their school computers.

Due to time differences, the telescopes will be available to British children during school hours, while the night skies are over Australia and Hawaii.

When the project begins in early 2004, children will be able to steer the telescopes over the internet and download high resolution colour pictures of deep space.

Astronomers at Cardiff University's School of Physics and Astronomy say it will help to revolutionise science teaching.

Telescope in Hawaii
The Hawaii-based telescope is ready to go online

Dr Paul Roche, of Cardiff University, said: "I think astronomy is a very visual subject and we are dealing with beautiful images of the distant universe.

"Astronomy is full of superlatives - the biggest, the fastest, the heaviest - all of these things are in there and it looks great too."

The 9m project is funded by the Dill Faulkes Educational Trust and will make the telescopes available to the 170 schools from across the UK who have so far signed up to the project.

Emma Lewis, a teacher at Llanishen High School, in Cardiff, said: "It's very good for them to see something that is really out there.

Dr Paul Roche
Dr Paul Roche is among the astronomers running the project

"A lot of the work that we do can be quite theoretical.

"To have a look at the actual telescope images and see them in colour rather than black and white, gives them an opportunity to see things they normally wouldn't have seen."

It is hoped the project will cross curriculum boundaries from science, to art and mathematics.

There will also be opportunities for groups outside schools, such as astronomy societies, to use the telescopes.

The first 25 tonne robot telescope on the island of Maui is ready to go online in Hawaii, while the second, in New South Wales, Australia, is expected to be completed in summer 2004.

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