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The Future's So Bright, Westwood Students Gotta Wear Shades

Last week Astronomy students kicked off their study of the Copernican Revolution by using Westwood High School's telescope to observe a cluster of sunspots on the Sun. Students learned that Galileo's 1612 discovery of sunspots was historically important because it undermined the prevailing wisdom of the time that celestial objects were both unflawed and unchanging.

Westwood High School's telescope is an 8-inch aperture reflecting telescope. It is equipped with a solar filter which was acquired via a 2011 grant from the Westwood PTO.

After viewing the sunspots (and taking photos through the telescope's eyepiece with their phones) students returned to the classroom where they were challenged to create cartoons depicting the implications of Galileo's discovery.

Along with his discovery of sunspots, Galileo's discoveries of craters on the Moon, Venus' phases, and Jupiter's moons collectively proved that Copernicus' heliocentric (Sun-centered) view of the solar system was correct and that the Earth was not the center of the Universe. Astronomy students will follow in Galileo's footsteps over the coming weeks as they use remotely-operated telescopes located in the Canary Islands and in Chile's Atacama Desert to replicate each of these major discoveries.

Astronomy is a senior science elective that has been offered as a full-year course at Westwood High School since 2010.

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