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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 July, 2004, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
Schools enter Solar System orbits
By Dr Lucy Rogers

Image (methane highlighted) of Uranus, Subaru Telescope
Distant Uranus will be sited in Bath
If the Sun was about the size of the famous Lovell radio dish at Jodrell Bank (diameter 76m), Pluto would be in Aberdeen, and Neptune in Armagh.

And that is just where the Spaced Out project - which aims to create one of the world's largest scale models of the Solar System - has put them.

The full list of the 18 sites around the UK that will host various space objects has now been agreed.

Many of them, as one might expect of such a project, are in school grounds.

A Partner Information Day for those participating schools and organisations was recently hosted at the Manchester International Convention Centre by one of the project's principal sponsors - G-Mex.

A big place

"Spaced Out is a project which should appeal to all ages and all disciplines," says John Thomson, education consultant to Spaced Out.

Map showing location of terrestrial planets, BBC
"It will involve pupils, teachers, astronomers, artists and designers, all combining their talents to achieve a better awareness and understanding of our marvellous Universe.

"The scale model of the Solar System will help children, and adults, comprehend just how large space is and how we are trying to learn more about the objects which share it with us.

"Artists and scientists are working together to create novel and inspiring representations of the planets and minor bodies, some of which have not yet been seen in detail."

Not all bodies in the Solar System can be featured, of course. Besides the major planets, Spaced Out has chosen to incorporate eight other objects, including the largest asteroid, Ceres, and some of the centaurs (objects that migrated in from the outer Solar System), such as Pholus.

Map showing location of Solar System objects, BBC
The most distant object is TL66, a so-called Trans-Neptunian Object, which will be sited at Whalsay School at Symbister, on the Shetland Islands.

The real TL66 ranges in distance from 35 AU to 135 AU from the Sun (An Astronomical Unit - the Sun-Earth distance - is 149 million km).

Spaced Out's main financial sponsor is Nesta (National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts), which believes the project will link art and science across the National Curriculum and will be particularly suitable for pupils from Key Stages 1 to 4.

Professor Sir Francis Graham-Smith FRS, the 13th English Astronomer Royal and the project's patron, said: "It is difficult to know where to start in teaching astronomy to different age ranges but this project manages to do this extremely well."

The scheme is due for completion during Science Week in March 2005. Full details can be found at www.spacedout-uk.co.uk

The final list of installation sites:

  • The Sun at the Jodrell Bank Visitor's Centre, Cheshire
  • Mercury at Hermitage Primary School, Holmes Chapel, Cheshire
  • Venus at Alderley Edge Primary School, Alderley Edge, Cheshire
  • The Earth and Moon at Tytherington High School, Macclesfield, Cheshire
  • Mars at Hartford High School, Northwich, Cheshire
  • Ceres (asteroid) at Furness Vale Primary School, Furness Vale, Derbyshire
  • Gaspra (asteroid) at William Hulme's Grammar School, Manchester
  • Jupiter at Techniquest@NEWI, Wrexham
  • Saturn at Lancaster Girls' Grammar School, Lancashire
  • Chiron (centaur) at The National Space Centre, Leicester
  • Pholus (centaur) at Swanshurst School Birmingham
  • Absolus (centaur) at The Spaceguard Centre, Knighton, Powys
  • Uranus at the William Herschel Museum, Bath, Avon
  • Neptune at The Armagh Planetarium, Armagh, N Ireland
  • Halley's Comet at Forest Gate Community School, London
  • Pluto at Robert Gordon's College, Aberdeen
  • Varuna (TNO) at Camborne School & Community College, Camborne, Cornwall
  • TL66 (TNO) at Whalsay School, Symbister, Whalsay, Shetland Islands

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