PRACTICAL EXERCISE 3: Ground-based observatories

This activity is suitable for students from grades 7 – 8.


The students will learn to search and systematize information for a chosen by them (or a given by the teacher) ground-based observatory, its instruments and research objectives.

Necessary materials

tablet/smartphone/computer; internet access and Google Maps ( ) or a similar site.

List of observatories:

(a full list of astronomical observatories can be found here:

1. IceCube Neutrino Observatory, )

2. Arecibo Observatory,

3. ALMA (

4. Paranal Observatory, ) 5. Mauna Kea Observatories, )

6. LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, 7. Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, ) 8. South African Astronomical Observatory, )

9. Big Bear Solar Observatory ( )

10. Natioanal astronomical observatory Rozhen ( ) 11. Lowell Observatory,

12. Special astrophysical observatory(SAO,

13. Australian Astronomical Observatory, )

14. Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (

Instructions for the teacher

The activity can be done by teams of 3 (or possibly 6) students (another option is to give it as homework and the students can ask their parents for help. When the teams are formed, each team chooses (or is given) an observatory from the above list on the one at the Wikipedia page. The students in each team have to take the following roles: one is in charge of finding the observatory on Google maps and describe the location in a few sentences – position, elevation, some other interesting information about the site; the second student has to find and systematize information about the telescopes and other instruments at the observatory and its primary aim – in which part of the electromagnetic spectrum are the research activities mainly concentrated; the third student has to fine and explain in a few sentences two or three interesting result, obtained at this observatory. The team collects the information (for 20 minutes) and makes a 10-minute presentation in front of the rest of the class. The given times are indicative, they can be changed at the teachers discretion. After the end of the presentations, the teacher can start a discussion about the learned material: which of the observatories the students find most interesting, why; which one they would like to visit, why; has anyone ever visited an astronomical observatory, which one, what they learned there, what impressed them the most, etc.

Instructions for the student

Your class has the opportunity to visit one ground-based astronomical observatory from the given list. But in order to make the best choice, you have to have some more information for them. To do this, the class is split in teams of 3 (or 6) students, and each team has to obtain (from the internet) and present information for one observatory to the rest of the class.

1. After your team is formed, choose, or get from the teacher the observatory you will research.

2. Distribute among yourselves the following tasks (one or two students for each task):

а) collect of information about the location – where it is situated – city, country, etc.; what is the elevation of the site; what other interesting places are near-by (nature parks, cities, etc.). You have to find the location of the observatory on Google maps, write down the coordinates and show it to the class on a map or a satellite image.

б) collect information about the available telescopes and instruments in this observatory and what is its main purpose - in which part of the electromagnetic spectrum are the research activities mainly concentrated, how they are conducted, etc. If the observatory has many telescopes/instruments, choose at least two.

в) find and describe briefly two or three interesting results, obtained at this observatory - in 5 – 6 sentences say what is observed, with which telescope/instrument, what is the result.

3. You have 20 minutes to collect the above information.

4. You have 10 minutes to present the collected information to the rest of the class.