TARA gives you access to a telescope in California. The telescope is controlled live from CIT BCO. This takes advantage of different locations on our planet. The eight hour time difference between our part of western Europe and western North America means that at 10 am in Ireland we view the dark skies of 2 am. For people in the same time zone as the telescope, the Sun and the Moon can be observed live. We have included a dedicated solar telescope for daytime astronomy.

The telescope is based at Ormondale Elementary School. Our CIT BCO staff members continue to develop a software user interface to control the telescope systems. This interface is being tailored to specific users.

All sessions in our control room are facilitated by a member of staff who guides each group through the entire process. Teams work together in our control room to interpret the sensor data from the telescope system. Weather conditions are hugely important when using a telescope. We use live updates to determine if conditions in California are suitable for observing. TARA has a cloud monitor and a weather station attached to it as well as a camera facing the sky.

You get to take pictures of objects you choose. The telescope is controlled in real-time, meaning you get to actually move the telescope and take pictures. The telescope can be seen moving live (via a webcam) at your command and the whole process is highly interactive.

Astronomy has a unique role in science education. Inspiring ideas with astronomy include

  • the general laws of physics, such as gravity or nuclear fusion.
  • the history of science and technology
  • a celebration of the beauty of the Universe
  • our understanding of our own origins

With a small telescope, there is great scope for science. We can carry out the same observations of the moons of Jupiter as Galileo! We can ask what is “up there” and get real pictures of the wonders of space. With experience we can measure the changes in starlight from variable stars, work out the rotation of asteroids (by taking pictures of them as fast as possible for as long as possible).

In all our projects we value the input of teachers. We welcome teachers who would like to collaborate with us to build exciting activities that capture a student’s imagination.