Dhara Patel

Dhara Patel

Senior Manager for Astronomy Education at the Royal Observatory Greenwich

Location London


  • Setting expectations with your students seems like a very helpful technique to ensure everyone gets the most out of the session and time isn't wasted with preparations that could be done beforehand!

  • The Earth's axis is always tilted, but the tilt with respect the the Sun changes throughout the year as the Earth orbits it.
    When the tilt of the Earth is neither pointing towards or away from the Sun (i.e. when it is perpendicular) we have the equinoxes (twice a year) - and these points in time mark the beginning of astronomical spring and astronomical autumn.

  • Absolutely - Mercury the closest planet takes just 88 days to orbit the Sun so it has a pretty short year, whereas Neptune the most distant planet takes about 165 Earth years to go around the Sun once! I'm not sure anyone would live to celebrate their first birthday living on Neptune!

  • I think the decision would be different for different people.
    I believe studying any of the physical sciences gives you such a breadth of transferable skills that there are many career prospects that could open up as a result. The thing with astronomy now, is that it's expanding into lots of different branches like space exploration, astrobiology and...

  • While astrology is considered by many as a pseudoscience, it's interesting to note that astronomy grew out of astrology as a scientific field.

  • Thank you for participating and sharing your thoughts so enthusiastically throughout the entire course - we hope you've taken some useful things away from it!

  • I think this is what drew me to astronomy especially - it's inconceivably big and I am just a small part of it - but there are such interesting ways of connecting everything together!

  • All the videos and more can be found on our vimeo page: www.vimeo.com/royalobservatory, or you can find the videos and associated classroom activities on our museum website: https://www.rmg.co.uk/schools-communities/all-astronomy-science-resources - enjoy!

  • This is a very relevant analogy that you can use with students to help them understand! Though it should be noted that the distance of the object from you and the light source also affects the size of the shadow.

  • I think it's still hard to conceptualise the big sizes even as an adult!
    Thanks for sharing the resource - another one I've found that I really like is: https://www.htwins.net/scale2/

  • That's a really nice idea!

  • Nice! Tails of gas/dust are often associated with comets, whereas meteors (shooting stars) move across the sky so quickly that they appear as a streak of light!

  • Great point - interest should be fostered and encouraged!

  • Very nice!

  • Yes - some asteroids may travel alone, most are found in the asteroid belt, and others known as trojan asteroids actually follow the orbit of a planet (slightly ahead or behind the planet in its orbit)!

  • The Moon definitely shines bright in the night sky!
    But what many people forget is that we also see the Moon during the day!

  • Nice summary! Though when you say 'in Earth's orbit', it implies that the Moon follows the Earth's orbit, which it doesn't... maybe a slight reword to 'The Moon is a rock that orbits the Earth...'.

  • Glad to hear the course has been helpful to you in many ways!

  • Very eye opening - thanks for sharing your insights and reflections.

  • If you'd like to use the videos in your classroom you can find them on our Vimeo channel (www.vimeo.com/royalobservatory) or check out the learning resources on our museum's website (https://www.rmg.co.uk/schools-communities/all-astronomy-science-resources).

  • Very succinct - nice! To expand on your point about 'It [field] is always there but the force is not', we can take the Earth as an example. Around the Earth there is a gravitational field, but a force only comes into play when a mass (like a human) enters that field - that's when a force is experienced!

  • Thanks for sharing this resource!

  • We encourage teachers to use our videos in the most suitable way for their audience. And many educators on our teacher forum have fed back that they do just what you've suggested, and often pause the video at certain points!

  • You can find this video along with many other on our Vimeo channel (www.vimeo.com/royalobservatory) or by checking out the learning resources on our museum's website (https://www.rmg.co.uk/schools-communities/all-astronomy-science-resources) - enjoy!

  • Absolutely!

  • Some really interesting points - thanks for sharing!

  • I really like that notion!

  • Dhara Patel made a comment

    There's some really great ideas listed below - thank you all for sharing!

  • From a students perspective - other than learning about different science topics, what else (skills or values) do you hope being taught science can help you develop? It would be interesting to know your thoughts!

  • I case you're interested, we also have a training course for primary school science teachers: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/primary-science

  • Thanks for sharing your perspectives as a current student!

  • I think making science practical is something that many teachers struggle with due to resources and also the confines of the curriculum and how much needs to be covered.

  • Many people might view science as a 'hard' subject so it's great to hear you were able to overcome that barrier to enjoy it!

  • Hello all - we hope you're looking forward to going through Physics, Astronomy and Space: Teaching Secondary Science!

    We were actively facilitating this course from 18 October - 7 November and enjoyed sharing our experiences in teaching astronomy and space science with you, and responding to your posts.

    The next facilitated period will begin on Monday...

  • @nazakatsherazi - I hope you find lots of help and guidance through this course and from there on I recommend trying to put into practice some of the tips and tricks you've learnt. Personally, I've found my presenting has improved by just doing and trying and then getting feedback to help me up my game!

  • It's easy to get mixed up with all the science jargon for space rocks!

    The smaller rocks are actually called METEOROIDS and when the enter the Earth's atmosphere they are called METEORS.

    And if they reach the Earth's surface without completely disintegrating, then they are called METEORITES!

  • Absolutely!

  • Hello all - we hope you're looking forward to going through Physics, Astronomy and Space: Teaching Secondary Science!

    The course educators will be back to facilitate the course between 18th October and 7th November 2021.

    However, we're confident that you'll find support in the comments from other participants taking the course, so you can get started...

  • That's a really good point you bring up about the fact that when we have night, on the opposite side of the Earth, it's actually daytime for those living there!

    And although we typically see the Moon during the night (as it can be easier to spot then), the Moon DOES appear in the sky during the day when the Sun is up! During the day, you'll most likely spot...

  • There are - aren't there!
    Once you're on the Padlet board - in the top right corner, if you click 'share', you should be able to send or export the posts to wherever is convenient for you :)

  • Giving students the responsibility to drive the learning forward, such as by giving then control of the whiteboard, can be really powerful :)

  • Thanks for sharing this!

  • I often find myself in the same position as you!

  • Yes - gravity waves can be generated in fluids as a result of the force of gravity and it's important to note that these are different to gravitational waves which have stolen headlines in the past few years!

  • Agreed!

  • The second part about it being detected from behind a black hole is also puzzling but it's possible due to an effect known as gravitational lensing.

    - just like we are pulled to the Earth by gravity and just like the Earth is pulled around the Sun by gravity - light can also be "pulled" or bent by gravity when the central object has an incredible amount of...

  • Black holes are fascinating, aren't they?!
    There's a few different aspects to the article you may have recently read but in essence:

    - there are charged particles moving incredibly quickly around a black hole and they create a magnetic field.

    - but because of the spinning, those magnetic fields get tied up and snap - when they do, particles called...

  • I really like your comments about the fact that science is something that is part of our everyday lives!

  • You're absolutely correct that all the planets circle or orbit around the Sun but all the stars we see at night are actually just like our Sun - huge balls of very very hot gas! They are not part of our solar system (they don't go around our Sun), though they can have planets going around them just like our Sun does!

  • A really nice description :)
    There are lots of different types of space rocks - asteroids and meteorites that you mention are a few but in the next step we'll introduce other types and hopefully you'll see the subtle differences between a meteorite and a meteor for example.

  • This is a lovely idea - thanks for sharing!

  • That's great to hear!

  • As you say, technically the content is correct but the visuals may lead to a misunderstanding. A valid point - thanks for highlighting this.

  • I second the final comment you make whole heartedly!

  • This is such a valid point to raise @PaulSutton and I totally agree that people should be encouraged to question things!

    Typically astronomers will use life on Earth as a benchmark because we know that life is possible in that way, but it's important not to rule out that other types of life could exist. Right now though, we don't really know what could...

  • Spot on!

  • Nicely differentiated!
    However, the gravitational field strength 'g' of each planet does differ and is not the same. I assume you mean the Universal Gravitational Constant 'G' is the number that stays the same?

  • Good point - the gravitational field strength on Earth (at the surface) is taken as 9.81 m/s^2. But this value does vary over the planet because the Earth isn't a perfect sphere and the value of 'g' depends on the distance from the centre of Mass - in this case, the Earth's centre of mass. Because the equator bulges out a bit more and the poles are slightly...

  • Generally the whole 'opposite direction down a plughole' is a misconception - though due to something known as the Coriolis Effect, it could be possible to see this manifest with a larger, slower moving system.
    It's usually the design of the plug hole, any currents already in the water and the direction the water was travelling in before the plug was pulled,...

  • Even as someone who has studied physics and now communicates astronomy regularly, I still find myself in situations where I don't know the answer to a question someone asks me. That itself is not an issue - it's how you deal with the scenario that I find is more important!

  • Thanks for sharing this @SamuelShute - it's great to have a student's perspective on what makes an engaging lesson.

  • Nice idea!

  • Nice idea!