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Lighting it Up: The Physics of Imaging Space



The School of Physical Sciences (SPS) Outreach and Public Engagement (OPE) team have spent the last year working with SPS researchers to produce a new film about the science of imaging in space. The project called ‘Lighting it Up: The Physics of Space Imaging’, looks at how camera sensors are designed and tested so that they can be used for applications in space; from imaging the surfaces of planets in high resolution, to taking pictures of stars in far-off galaxies.

The film, and associated school outreach programme, are aimed at Key Stage 3 children, but the film itself is available on YouTube for anyone to learn more about this exciting scientific field. The film includes a three minute animation explaining the basic science concepts of the work related to the school curriculum, and it is available as a standalone resource. Alongside the film, in November 2021 some of the SPS researchers took part in Zoom calls into classrooms to talk to students about the science behind their work, and to take part in a Q&A session and to watch the film. For many this represented the first time they had met a real scientist, even if it was on Zoom. The OPE team then provided a resource pack of activities for the teachers to complete with the students, which allowed them to take part in some hands-on experiments related to radiation and light in terms of space imaging.

The Open University team involved in this project was Natalie Starkey, Alice Dunford, Ben Dryer and Chiaki Crews. The film was made in collaboration with the Centre for Electronic Imaging (CEI) and industry partners Teledyne e2v based in Chelmsford, who already work closely with some of the CEI researchers. Generous support was also provided by The Open University, SEPnet and UKRI STFC as part of a Spark award.

The SPS OPE team are currently taking applications for the project to run again in a new school in the summer term of 2022.