A group of students from Samtse College of Education have joined forces with international astronomers to construct a Panoptes telescope. Panoptes telescopes are low-cost, robotic devices designed specifically for detecting planets beyond our solar system. The collaborative initiative, known as Project Panoptes, aims to inspire a new generation of teachers and students.
Over the past few weeks, a group of students has dedicated themselves to the construction of a robotic telescope. A team of five astronomers from the United States are helping the students with the project.
The telescope’s hardware includes a control box, a camera box, and a mount, which ensures precise and stable observations.
This device with two DSLR cameras captures images of the night sky. The mount allows the cameras to move automatically, capturing the wonders of the cosmos.
“The project is a citizen science project, where we help the students and general public from around the world build small robotic telescopes, which are fully automated. And these small robots can be put in their backyards and at night they wake up and observe the night sky. And we are trying to find exoplanets using these little telescopes,” said Dr Preethi Krishnamoorthy, an astronomer.
Participating in the project has provided these aspiring educators with hands-on experience in telescope construction.
“I feel like I am living the dream. From a very young age itself, I used to be very much interested in astronomy and scientific technology. And taking part in this project, I am learning a lot about technology,” said Sobith Pradhan, a member of Project Panoptes at Samtse College of Education.
“The team from the US guides us. They don’t spoon-feed us because students are involved in hands-on practice. And in that process, they need to read instructions to construct or assemble the device. There are different forms of communication like scientific and computer language and many more. This improves their communication skills as well,” said Ugyen Pem, the focal person of Project Panoptes at the same college.
“Our hope for Samtse is that because this is a place where teachers are trained for the future, we trained them with this and they will be training various students throughout the country. And we see that happening already. We see them absorbing information and we feel confident of their ability to do this for the whole country,” added Dr Preethi.
About 90 per cent of the project is complete.
The initiative is expected to contribute to the advancement of science education in Bhutan and encourage students to pursue careers in STEM fields.