The Faulkes Telescope Project meeting in Moscow !

The Faulkes Telescope Project  meeting  in Moscow !


On 26th September 2007, a meeting organized by the British Council in Moscow was held at the Sternberg Astronomical Institute in Moscow to celebrate one year of the Faulkes Telescope project in Russia. Attending the meeting were representatives from schools in all five regions of Russia participating in the project (Moscow, St Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Nizhniy Novgorod and Samara), together with regional co-ordinators of the British Council-FT project and professional astronomers. Founder of the Faulkes Telescope project, Dr Martin (Dill) Faulkes, was guest of honour.

FT/BC/HOU Meeting in Moscow 1

 During the day, students and teachers from the five regions presented the results of their work during the year. In each region, school pupils and their teachers have worked closely with the regional coordinators and with professional astronomers to identify projects which are of BC/FT Meeting in Moscowgenuine scientific interest. Working together, the teams have then planned the observations needed, booked time on the telescopes, and collected their data. Collecting the data is only part of the work - pupils, teachers and astronomers have then undertaken careful analysis of their results, drawing appropriate conclusions and deciding on future work.

All of these efforts were reported during the conference, and those attending were highly impressed with the work that had been carried out, both in terms of the amount of observations and the quality of the analysis.

All schools participating in the project received certificates and prizes of books, kindly donated by the Dynasty foundation. In addition,  each of the five regions received an astronomical telescope, and there were FT/BC Meeting in Moscowprizes of webcams and printers for the best reports presented by schools. Certificates were awarded by Dill Faulkes as guest of honour, books by [name] of the Dynasty Foundation, and other prizes by Serge Lamzin for Sternberg Astronomical Institute.


Following the reports from schools, those attending the conference had an opportunity to discuss future work with the telescopes, and collaboration with other countries across Europe. This discussion was greatly assisted by the attendance of Lech Mankiewicz (Poland) and Rosa Doran (Portugal) from the EU Hands On Universe (EUHoU) project, who provided many helpful examples of collaborative projects currently running in Europe. As an outcome of the discussions, Russian colleagues prioritised the following projects for future work, participating fully in a range of international projects through three initiatives:

1.     Nizhniy Novgorod initiative - to join "Academy of colour imaging" - a special section of the web site including dedicated Forum, devoted to improving color imaging skills to learn to adapt photos from telescopes and make them beautiful, including use of the SalsaJ software.

2.     St Petersburg initiative - to join "To the edge of the Solar System" - observations of trans-Neptunian objects and Pluto.

3.     Samara initiative - to join "Supernova Observation", a continuation of the activities of the Portal of Supernovae. This would include the introduction of a "Supernova Target of the Month" intended to encourage more schools to perform observations of the same supernova, and thus contribute to detailed knowledge about it.



 Five Russian regions took part in the conference: Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Samara, Nizhny Novgorod and Yekaterinburg. They all described their observations and investigations that were carried out using the Faulkes telescopes.

Moscow was represented by participants from one of the six teams of the region BC/FT meeting, Moscowcalled Moscow-6. The team was made up of pupils from the Interschool Astronomical Centre, Vega, from the Moscow suburb of Zheleznodorozhny. They chose the most beautiful things in the starry skies, planetary nebulae, as the main objects of their investigation. Taking pictures of planetary nebulae on such a serious instrument as the 2 metre telescope is not hard. But the moscow6 team set themselves the challenge of getting images of the outermost and weakest parts of the nebulae (so called nebulae halos - a substance emitted by a red giant star) in order to determine their dimensions and ages more accurately. The team looked at six nebulae in total. In order to make weak parts more visible they applied the method of combining a large number of separate shots of the same nebula. For two objects the total exposure time was over 30 minutes per filter. Using these images it was possible to make out the outer shell of two nebulae and for the Cat's Eye nebula it was possible to get an accurate calculation of the dimensions of the halo and the dimensions of individual nebulae within it. Aside from this, the pupils defined the dimensions and age of each nebula.

A representative from one of the Saint Petersburg teams gave an BC/FT meeting in Moscowaccount of the observations carried out in the town and presented the report The"game" with Pluto and Charon. The aim of the work was to verify the searching method for binary asteroids by offsetting the centre of an image on the shots taken with different light filters. The method is based on a hypothesis that colour indices of asteroids in binary systems vary. The pupils got several shots of the Pluton-Charon system with two filters - blue and red. Measuring the position of the system image on these shots against stars, they observed the displacement of the image when transferring from one filter to another. In order to define the accuracy of the method, the pupils also measured the position of a reference star in each of the shots. The measurement accuracy turned out to be equal to 0.04 arc seconds (which is almost 5 times less than one image pixel!). Alas, the displacement of the center of the image of the Pluton-Charon system turned out to be exactly the same size.  Based on this the pupils came to the original conclusion that Possibly Charon does not exist...

In Samara, the main emphasis was placed on observing galaxies and BC/FT meeting in Moscowsupernovae. Several teams from the city participated in the project. In total they obtained colour photographs of more than 20 different types of galaxies (including interacting galaxies) and several supernovae, exploding in various galaxies. Aleksandr Makrushen, a representative of the team from the Aviation College of Samara talked about the observations of the spiral galaxy NGC1637. In the report he included the results of the photometric processing of his pictures and presented photometric cross-sections of galaxies which were used to calculate the dimensions of the central part of the galaxy in various spectral ranges.

The team from Nizhny Novgorod also dedicated their observations with the Faulkes telescope to investigating the galaxies. During the FT/BC Meeting in Moscowobservations each of the participants learnt how to operate the robotic telescope. In order to process the images received and calculate the arc dimensions of the galaxies, the pupils used the method of increasing the contrast of the images in a graphics editor. By doing this they managed to distinguish barely noticeable outer parts of galaxies. They then measured the dimensions of the galaxies on the shots and, using simple formulae, converted these dimensions into arc dimensions of galaxies in the sky. They investigated 7 galaxies in total. For one of them, NGC 4293, they discovered a substantial upward deviation from catalogue data.


Teams from Yekaterinburg undertook four projects in which they studiedBC/FT meeting, Moscow the most varied objects in our universe, from the binary stars of RZ Compass to gigantic galaxies. The challenges were set out in such a way that the pupils were able to participate not only in the observations, but also in the processing of the material that they obtained. They did not just learn about the Universe, they learnt about the rules that govern it. Here is a list of the projects from this region: 1) investigating areas of star formation in the spiral arm of Perseus, 2) multicoloured photometry of young open star clusters, 3) surface photometry of galaxies, 4) observing the eclipsed variable star RZ Compass. One of the most important results for all those who used the Faulkes telescope was evaluating the internal accuracy of the photometry in different parts of the spectrum, which according to the team was 0.01(R) - 0.05(B) luminosity.

During the conference the region representatives answered a great deal of questions and their work was commented on by leading scientists. They expressed their wishes to the project organisers and, all in all, had a fantastic experience.