From Galileo to gravitational waves

The Ellinogermaniki Agogi team is working diligently to implement their pilot case study called “From Galileo’s discoveries to the detection of gravitational waves”. This learning pathway aims to offer a concise introduction to modern astronomy’s ground-breaking scientific advances, starting with Galileo’s first discoveries using his telescope back in the 1600s, to the recent direct observations of gravitational waves by the LIGO and VIRGO detectors.

The pathway is designed to crosscut different learning environments, interconnecting different educational settings, formal and informal, including a science museum, astronomy observatory, research infrastructure, web-based science-related contents, and the school. More than 150 junior high school students from Ellinogermaniki Agogi are participating in this educational pathway, which encourages students to engage with science in a meaningful and interactive way.

The first stage of the educational pathway has been completed with high engagement and enthusiasm from the students. The students were introduced to Galileo’s life and work, followed by a guided virtual tour to the Galileo Museo in Florence, where they saw Galileo’s telescopes, related exhibits, and models of the Universe. This was followed by a discussion on the scientific method and Galileo’s important contribution to it. The pathway then focused on Galileo’s observations of the Sun, where students discussed the dark spots Galileo saw and the main interpretations of their nature at his time.

High schoolers of Ellinogermaniki Agogi take a virtual tour ar the Galileo Museum (image credit: Thanos Leontios)

To help students understand better, they studied the apparatus Galileo used to observe the Sun (helioscope) and experimented with an educational replica of the historical scientific instrument. Galileo proved that the sunspots are on the Sun’s surface and not in orbit around it by calculating their velocity as they travel across the solar disk. Students retraced Galileo’s steps and proved, the same way he did, that the sunspots are on the Sun’s surface. They also compared the sunspots’ motion with a body that is in orbit around the Sun by calculating Venus’ velocity during the transit of 2012.

Students learn how a refracting telescope works (image credit: Thanos Leontios)

While the educational pathway is still under investigation, the students seem to be actively engaging with the material towards a better understanding of the scientific process. The first results of the assessment of Ellinogermaniki Agogi’s innovative educational pathway, ‘From Galileo to Gravitational Waves,’ will soon be analysed, with valuable data gathered through the Science Chaser app.