Children and the Brorfelde Observatory in focus – Niels Bohr Institute - University of Copenhagen

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04 June 2009

Children and the Brorfelde Observatory in focus

Two projects place focus on the astronomy of the past and the astronomy of the future. In one project, schoolchildren will build their own simple telescopes to explore the sky with and in the other project a film will be made about the history of the Brorfelde Observatory.

The educational project Children of Galileo
makes it fun to learn about astronomy.
Photo: Mikael Svalgaard.

The two very different projects occur in connection with the International Year of Astronomy 2009 and they can now be set in motion with two grants of 100.000 kroner each from the Bodil Pedersen Foundation.

Children of Galileo
In 1609, Galileo Galilei aimed his homemade telescope towards the sky for the first time. He saw craters on the Moon, he discovered four moons orbiting Jupiter, and he discovered that the planet Venus had phases. Galilei's observations led to a new worldview: From sitting on the Earth in the center of the universe - to now residing on a little planet that orbits a random star, on the edge of one out of a billion galaxies in a universe, which began in a gigantic explosion, the Big Bang, more than 13 billion years ago.

We are celebrating the progress that Galilei set in motion 400 years ago with the UN's International Year of Astronomy. Over 136 countries around the world are participating in the Year of Astronomy. His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik is the patron for the Year of Astronomy in Denmark.


Children build their own telescope in the
project Children of Galileo.
Photo: Mikael Svalgaard.

In the educational project Children of Galileo, the children of today get the opportunity to have a good experience by building a telescope themselves and then aiming it towards the sky. The goal is to strengthen and to increase interest in the sciences by making it fun to learn about astronomy and other fields of science.

With the grant from the Bodil Pedersen Foundation each of the country's 19 Education Resource Centres and the 10 municipalities with their own resource centres will receive two telescope construction kits, which can be loaned out to schools.

New film about the Brorfelde Observatory
The Bodil Pedersen Foundation is giving grant funds to produce a film about the history of the Brorfelde Observatory. The observatory of the University of Copenhagen opened in 1947 and closed 50 years later in 1996. During this period it was used primarily to make astrophysical measurements of the stars.

With grant funds from the Bodil Pedersen Foundation,
a film about the history of the Brorfelde Observatory
will be made.

In 1938, it was acknowledged that stars produced energy through atomic power. Hydrogen combined into helium. In the latter half of the 20th century Professor Bengt Strømgren and observer Kjeld Gyldenkerne and others studied and observed the relationships between different stars. This was made possible by the new electronic technique, photoelectric photometry, which was carried out using three telescopes at Brorfelde.

The mystery of the stars solved
At the close of the 20th century, star model calculations correlated so well with what was observed that one had to admit that the mystery of the stars was solved. The observatory in Brorfelde thus became the place where the the mystery of the physics of the stars was solved. Uranienborg and Stjerneborg on the island Hven was the place where Tycho Brahe solved the mystery of planetary motion and Tusculanum near Vridsløsemagle was the place where Ole Rømer proved that the fixed stars moved.

The three Danish observatories had in this way each contributed to groundbreaking results which will always be remembered because they changed the worldview to something completely new, each in their own way. Brorfelde is the only one which can escape falling into ruin.

The grants will be given out at a celebration June 4th at 11:00 at the Observatory in Brorfelde.