EUMETCast at school
With six C11-telescopes on the roof, Carl-Fuhlrott-Gymnasium in Wuppertal, Germany, keeps a keen eye on the sky. The school uses a EUMETCast station primarily for its actual purpose: a weather forecast, planning ahead for their astronomy lessons. Will there be clear skies tonight or will evening courses have to be cancelled? EUMETCast knows the answer.
Teacher Thomas Daniels remembers the days when he – at the age of 15 – attended courses in a local astronomy club.
“In those days, Meteosat images were received on 1.6 GHz WEFAX using a 256 kByte graphic memory and a 60 kg black and white monitor formerly used in a professional tv studio.
“Nowadays this is much easier. In spring 2014, I was able to help two students (Annika Spindler, Alexander Walter, then year 11) to set up the EUMETCast reception equipment and write a project documentation including operating instructions for future use of the station. This year (2014/15), Nils Hanke (also year 11) will program a Java software to automatically transfer licence-free satellite pictures to our website.”
The telescopes at Carl-Fuhlrott-Gymnasium are used by a range of secondary school students, and university students. If the class needs to be postponed, Mr. Daniels and his students can give advance notice to the 20 or so people who would normally come along in the evening.
“On good clear nights, the students have been able to make observations for whole range of astronomy projects, including viewing our neighbouring planets and distant galaxies. They have even looked at the effects of planets outside our Solar System – figuring out how much an exoplanet dimmed its home star when passing in front of it.”
They have some ambitious goals for the coming year …
- watching the moon’s shadow moving across the earth’s surface during the solar eclipse on March 20, 2015
- finding out how EUMETCast data can be used in different subjects such as geography and physics
- additional activities to complement satellite pictures, e. g. recording local weather data and displaying them on the website
- encouraging teachers and students at other schools to set up their own receiving equipment
The school is also interested in developing its skills with weather satellites, and is looking to learn more about Metop data too in the near future. The students and their teacher are interested in hearing from other schools who are already using weather satellite data for more advanced forecasting and for other projects in physics and geography.
“We are still in the process of finding out all the things we can do. The staff cannot always devote as much time as we might like to the station, and we also want the students to learn how to operate it for themselves. But so far so good – it is up and running and doing very nicely. I can say that schools benefit in a lot of ways from a free EUMETSAT data licence,” says Mr. Daniels.