Year 10 Royal Observatory Trip

Published on 02 May 2017

Year 10 Royal Observatory Trip

This term started with a (big!) bang for 150 Year 10 GCSE History students as they visited the Royal Observatory in Greenwich – the historical heart of British astronomy.  Students immersed themselves within this living scientific landmark, whilst simultaneously making links to the wider context of Restoration England. The students have been studying Charles II, the “Merrie Monarch” who had a keen interest in astronomy and the sciences – and who funded the creation of the Royal Observatory to compete with his French cousin, Louis XIV.

During the day, students had the opportunity to tour the historic site; admiring the beautiful Baroque architectural features and viewing a number of  famous scientific instruments. These included the Great Equatorial Telescope and a section of William Hershel's Great Forty Foot reflecting telescope.  William Herschel is famous for his discovery of Uranus in 1781!

Students were fascinated by the intellectual ‘quest’ to solve the mystery of the lines of longitude – a problem which every country in Europe was desperate to overcome. Their measurement would enable far easier navigation, facilitate the development of trade and further exploration. The Royal Observatory also played a vital role in the discovery of new astronomical bodies; John Flamsteed documented over 3000 new stars during his forty year tenure as Astronomer Royal. The students were able to stand on the Meridian Line, straddling both Eastern and Western hemispheres; as well as view the famous dropping ‘time ball’ that provided essential chronological information for ships setting out to sea on the Thames. They were also enthralled by the camera obscura, a ‘miraculous’ lens projector that allowed them to spy on people eating their lunch in the park below!

The visit to the Royal Observatory has provided a great insight into this fascinating individual’s mind and motivations, and has added another facet to his already complex character. This will enable them to make synoptic links to other key developments that occurred during the period. Thanks to students for their impeccable behaviour and boundless enthusiasm during the trip!

Mrs Akers-Jarvis