Star-struck Lauder youngsters boldly go forward in constellation competition

Youngsters in Lauder could have their names written in the stars after being chosen to create a new constellation, writes Mark Inchley.

Pupils from Lauder Primary School are among eight groups from across Scotland to win a national competition aimed at promoting International Year of Astronomy and last week the top astronomer in Scotland paid a visit to help them in their task.

Children from each of the eight winning schools will choose a star which will then be linked to form the new constellation.

Pupils will be invited to create a unique shape or design, with judges selecting their favourite to become a new officially-recognised constellation.

Spearheading the competition are Royal Astronomer of Scotland Professor John Brown and astronomy-inspired Gill Russell, and on Friday the pair spent the afternoon with P5 pupils at Lauder Primary to help them pick a star with local significance. And after much research and deliberation the team chose the star Mirach.

Astro-artist Gill explained: “The aim is to link stars to local sites based on time. The light from the stars that we see takes hundreds of years to travel to Earth, so what we’re actually seeing is the star as it was back then.

“The school made a great choice of Mirach in Andromeda, as one of the eight stars which will form Scotland’s new constellation. The light we see from Mirach started out around the time when the Brisbane Observatory at Makerstoun was built about 200 years ago, so it was a good choice.

“We had such a good time with the pupils in Lauder last week. They were probably one of the best schools we’ve had so far – they were fab.”

Lauder was chosen from hundreds of schools after a lengthy application process designed to test the youngsters’ enthusiasm for the project. The school also won a grant from the Edina Trust which helped towards the 650 entry fee.

Head teacher Alan Vannan said: “The class had already organised a science week and a science fair themselves so when this came along we knew they would be interested.

“The application process was quite long and I explained that it was open to the whole of Scotland so they’d have to really stand out from the crowd. But they were so excited and they produced a fantastic book full of pictures and information from their studies in class.

“And eventually they were selected for the final eight which was just great news.”

The group’s booklet won the hearts of the judges with its impressive range of stories, drawings and facts about astronomy which demonstrated their enthusiasm and won them the chance to meet organisers John and Gill for a day of workshops, a cosmic art workshop and magic demonstrations of cosmic phenomena.

“It was great for them to meet John Brown,” Alan added.

“You can’t get much better than that. They did all sorts of things like taking the children through all the constellations and stars in an indoor mobile planetarium. The class had a lot of fun and have been so enthusiastic about it all. It’s given them a real interest and really brought their learning to life.

“They’ll remember this for the rest of their lives.”

Lauder is the fourth school to have picked a star with four now remaining. When all eight have been chosen, the youngsters will begin designing their new constellation in the hope of having their design picked to become the newest addition to the galaxy later this year.

For more information on the competition, visit www.cosmicsky