Space suitcase to the Longyearbyen school

Space suitcase to the Longyearbyen school

Top image: Kjellmar Oksavik (right) shows the Longyearbyen high school pupils how to set up the different space measurment instruments. Photo: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS.

Five pupils at the Longyearbyen high school got their own space science suitcase at UNIS yesterday with instruments to observe the sun, to photograph the Aurora, and monitor cosmic radiation.

30 January 2008
Text: Eva Therese Jenssen

The Space Science Suitcase project started at the University in Bergen. ICESTAR, a project under the International Polar Year (IPY) got funding to develop a space suitcase for high school classes in Norway. The aim is to give pupils the opportunity to research natural phenomena, which traditionally have been reserved for academic scientists.

Opened for the first time
As Svalbard plays an important role for the ICESTAR research project, it was decided that the suitcase should be opened for the first time in Longyearbyen. Five of the high school pupils who study physics were invited to UNIS yesterday to open the suitcase and get basic instruction from UNIS associate professor Kjellmar Oksavik in how to use the different instruments.

The space suitcase contains robust and user friendly commercially available instruments, among them: Sunspotter (a simple solar telescope for observing sunspots); a Geiger counter for monitoring cosmic radiation, a digital camera for photographing the Aurora, a magnetometer to measure the magnetic disturbances due to electrical currents in the Aurora, and a GPS for monitoring fluctuations in the inferred coordinates at a fixed position.

Bringing excitement about space into the classroom
The aim of the project is to ensure that the pupils have some basic knowledge about space phenomena, such as how the Aurora arises, the importance of the ozone layer in regards to solar irradiation of the earth and to be able to explain how electromagnetic radiation from space may be interpreted and give us information about space.

– We want to bring the excitement of the different space phenomena into the classroom. The project aims at promoting scientific literacy among high school pupils, and ultimately we hope this project will increase the recruitment of students to physical sciences at the universities and space physics especially, Oksavik said.

The pupils will borrow the suitcase for a month and will have the opportunity to do some exciting field research. After that they will have to send it to another high school in Norway. They will also have to submit a report about their findings.

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