EXCITED pupils have stars in their eyes after being presented with a free telescope.
Boys and girls at Gryffe High in Houston are now able to check out the final frontier from the safety of their classroom after they were handed the telescope to mark the International Year of Astronomy.
It was donated by the Society for Popular Astronomy and will be used by the youngsters to study the Moon and other celestial wonders.
The pupils will be able to see the Moon appear more than 60 times closer and, under good conditions, the telescope can reveal galaxies at least 50 trillion light years away.
The telescope will also show the rings of Saturn and the major satellites of the giant planet Jupiter, which will be visible later in the year.
Ian Keith, head of physics and science at the school, said: “We are absolutely delighted with the new telescope and it is a fabulous opportunity to increase pupil interest in astronomy and science in general.
“Interested pupils will now be able to take part in Schools Moonwatch week which takes place in November.”
John Pressly, of Coats Observatory in Paisley, visited the school to give advice on setting up and using the telescope.
He said: “I am more than happy to help pupils get the most from the telescope and share my knowledge of how to observe the sky safely. Pupils can also visit Coats Observatory to further enhance their learning.”
The International Year of Astronomy is being held to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first astronomical use of the telescope.
In 1609, Thomas Harriot in England and Galileo in Italy both observed the Moon with the instrument.
Galileo’s discoveries in particular helped to convince people that the Earth is not the centre of the universe and that, instead, it orbits the sun.
It is also 40 years since the Apollo spacecraft landed on the Moon.
Dr Helen Walker, president of the Society for Popular Astronomy, hopes that the telescope will help more youngsters take up science as a career.
She said: “Some of today’s top scientists first became interested when they saw the Moon through a telescope.”