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Largest Scale Model Of The Solar System To Be Built In The UK


The world’s largest scale model of the Solar System will be created in the UK thanks to an award of £28,000 from NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology & the Arts), the organisation that invests in UK creativity and innovation. The project, run by Spaced Out UK, will be made with 18 UK schools and visitor attractions and bring together artists, scientist and designers in raising the profile of astronomy and creating an exciting new learning resource for the nation.

In all, there will be 18 models dotted from Cornwall to the Shetland Islands, representing the Sun, the nine planets, Halley’s Comet and numerous asteroids. The Sun will be at the world-famous Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, Planet Earth in Macclesfield and Halley’s Comet in east London. Uranus will be in Bath, the city where William Herschel lived when he discovered the planet in 1781.

Science teacher Dr Nigel Marshall dreamed up the idea after hearing about Illinois’ current largest model of the Solar System. Now he is set to recruit teams of pupils from around the country to work with artists, designers and astronomers to create sculptures or artistic representations of the planets and asteroids.

Most models will be built in school grounds, with six at key visitor attractions. The scale of 1 to 15 million reduces the distance between the Earth and the Sun to about 10km (6 miles). However, Pluto will still be as far away as Aberdeen; Jupiter in Wrexham, Saturn will be in Lancaster and Halley’s Comet at Forest Gate Community School, east London.

NESTA’s support is being used to establish and develop partnerships between the host schools and visitor attractions, installation artists, designers and the Spaced Out team. The funding will also be used to publicise the project through a range of printed and electronic media and through attendance at conferences and exhibitions.

Dr Marshall said: "Thanks to support from NESTA, Spaced Out will become a national teaching resource accessible to all students in all schools. Even if the models only stay in place for three years and are seen only by pupils in the first three years of senior school, they will have cost just three pence per pupil. A small price to pay to help young people to understand something as complex as the Universe.”

Sarah Macnee, Acting NESTA Learning Director, said: “NESTA is committed to supporting experimental approaches to engaging the public in science, technology and the arts and we are delighted to be supporting this project which merges so many disciplines to deliver such an intriguing and unusual visitor experience.”

The full list of participating schools and visitor attractions are:

The Sun - Jodrell Bank Visitor’s Centre, Cheshire
Mercury - Hermitage Primary School, Holmes Chapel, Cheshire
Venus - Alderley Edge Primary School, Cheshire
Earth & Moon - Tytherington High School, Macclesfield, Cheshire
Mars - Hartford High School, Northwich, Cheshire
Ceres - Furness Vale Primary School, Furness Vale, Derbyshire
Gaspra - William Hulme’s Grammar School, South Manchester
Jupiter - Techniquest@NEWI, Wrexham, N. Wales
Saturn - Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School, Lancaster
Chiron - National Space Centre, Leicester
Pholus - Swanshurst School, S. Birmingham
Absolus - Spaceguard Centre, Knighton, Powys
Uranus - William Herschel Museum, Bath
Neptune - Armagh Planetarium, Armagh, N. Ireland
Pluto - Robert Gordon’s College, Aberdeen, Scotland
Halley’s Comet - Forest Gate School, Forest Gate, East London
Varuna - Camborne Community School, Camborne, Cornwall
TL66 - Whalsay School, Whalsay, Shetland Isles

Joseph Meaney | alfa
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