About the National Schools' Observatory

The Liverpool Telescope, La Palma
Credit: The LT

The National Schools’ Observatory (NSO) has a mission to enable Access to the Universe for All  by inspiring the next generation of scientists, programmers and engineers through the wonders of space.

We open the door to the Universe through free use of the world’s largest robotic telescope, the Liverpool Telescope (LT). Using this we can explore the Solar System or distant galaxies together with professional astronomers from around the globe.

The NSO and the LT are maintained by Liverpool John Moores University and were created over ten years ago with the schools outreach programme embedded from the start. The NSO aims to support teachers in using curiosity children have with space to teach wider science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills. In using the NSO students are able to further their knowledge of science and mathematics, while at the same time improving their computer literacy and communications skills, strengthening their critical thinking and experiencing the real-world application of science and technology.

M1 - The Crab Nebula
Credit: The NSO

When the LT was in development, it was decided to allocate 5% of the observing time to schools in the UK and Ireland, since then this has been increased to 10%. As it is no easy task to control a robotic telescope, the NSO was created to act as a link between schools and the telescope, with observations made through our user-friendly Go Observing interface. There is no need to stay up through the night, the telescopes collects requests, schedules them and automatically returns them to your account when they’re complete. For examples of the amazing pictures schools have taken why not take a look at our Image of the Month gallery.

The NSO makes sure that by taking these observations you are doing real science, not just taking a pretty picture, and as such we provide the images as data files. This data can then be viewed using our free, easy to use, special software (LTImage) which can process and analyse the resulting images.

Launched in 2004, the NSO has always been committed to providing outstanding public engagement as well as significant impact on teaching and learning within schools. Alongside the access to the telescope the NSO provides a purpose built, bespoke website filled with all you could need to get to grips with space. We provide teachers with a range of activities, workshops, lesson plans and resources. We provide students with revision materials, interactive quizzes and an online text book feature providing information about most things space. We provide information on star gazing, news of astronomical events and forums allowing teachers to share best practice and students to share ideas, discuss problems or even ask a professional astronomer a question!

Offline, the NSO has also developed a successful work experience program for 16-19 year old students from across the country, hosts CPD sessions for teachers, regularly conducts outreach in schools and even won a Gold Medal at the Chelsea Flower Show for an educational garden around the subject of dark matter!

We hope that you will find this resource useful in supporting the teaching of STEM.

Why not explore the site some more, and to start making use of this fantastic free resource, create your own account.