Three high schools in Tasmania will be the first recipients of a program that will see them gifted with 20-cm telescopes.

The Launceston, Exeter and Ulverstone high schools will be visited by astronomers and receive their 20-cm Dobsonian telescopes on April 29 and 30.

The presentations will be made by scientist Dr Brad Tucker, from the Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics in 3D (ASTRO 3D) and the Australian National University (ANU), and Mr Peter Swanton, an educator also from ANU.

Dr Tucker and Mr Swanton will show the students how to use the telescopes and, after sunset, they’ll host star-gazing events for the public.

“In areas like the north of Tasmania, away from city lights, the skies are very dark and filled with stars everywhere, a truly breathtaking sight,” said Dr Tucker.

“But by using a good quality telescope you can see so much more. We hope that the students, schools and the communities will be able to make good, continuing use of the ones we bring,” he added.

“I hope they go on to develop detailed and inspiring astronomy projects for years to come, as well as a passion and love of science.”

Mr Swanton, a Gamilaraay/Yuwaalaraay man from Mackay, works at the ANU’s Tjabal Indigenous Higher Education Centre.

“I’m looking forward to meeting with Indigenous students in the area and introducing them — and the wider community — to Indigenous interpretations of the night sky,” he said.

The visits are just the first of many planned as part of the project called Scientists Taking Astronomy to Regional Schools, or STARS, organised by ASTRO 3D and ANU.

“Regional kids can study science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects at school, but access to STEM professionals and specialist programs is difficult because they are mainly located in larger towns and cities,” said ASTRO 3D’s Dr Delese Brewster, one of the architects of the program.

“But regional kids have a huge advantage in astronomy. Our countryside has big skies with minimal light pollution.

“This program aims to inspire children across Australia to look up and explore the universe.”

STARS is funded by a Federal Government Maker Projects: Community STEM Engagement grant, aimed at encouraging STEM education in schools.

Image credit: ESO/B. Tafreshi (twanight.org)