The National Schools’ Observatory (NSO) allows UK schools to make free use of a professional robotic telescope designed for scientific research. The telescope is located on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, and is known as the Liverpool Telescope.

When the Liverpool Telescope was in development, it was decided to allocate 5% of the observing time to schools in the UK and Ireland. As it is no easy task to control a robotic telescope, the National Schools’ Observatory was created to act as a link between schools and the telescope. In essence, the NSO allows teachers and students to request, download and analyse images of objects in space taken by the Liverpool Telescope.

In addition the NSO website also provides news updates, astronomy related projects and activities, teaching resources and an astronomy textbook, which is hopefully written in a language that students can understand.

In order to register with the National Schools’ Observatory, you must teach at a school in the UK or Ireland. Once registered, teachers can create individual user accounts for students at their school. All registered users gain access to the Liverpool Telescope, all NSO software and the entire telescope image archive.

School registrations are currently supported by Liverpool John Moores University, which means that schools in the UK and Ireland can join for free, which is an excellent opportunity.

Even if you don’t use the telescope, there are some useful resources for teachers of maths and science here.