What are the benefits for my students?

The program is aimed at students in Years 10 -12. For Year 10 students it may influence their subject selections for senior studies whilst senior students will be better informed for post-school choices.

Using the context of radio astronomy and specifically observations of extreme objects, pulsars, students experience observational astronomy using a world-class instrument, the Parkes radio telescope, Murriyang. During a typical observing session they make choices about which objects to observe, then obtain and analyse their data online.

An intrinsic part of the session is that they interact with professional astronomers and Post-graduate students. They have the opportunity to talk with them about science careers and study options, astronomy and science in general. Students experience science as a human endeavour using the latest technologies for radio astronomy.

All data collected in the program is freely and publicly available. Students can use it for open-ended investigations and depth studies.

What do other teachers think?

“Your students won’t forget the experience they have working as real scientists among world-leading astrophysicists – mine don’t!”

Rob Farr, Head of Science, Brigidine College St Ives

A typical PULSE@Parkes session

Visualisation of a pulsar

Visualisation of a pulsar. Credit: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF

PULSE@Parkes observing sessions may be delivered remotely with students online at their school or home, or onsite at our Space and Astronomy headquarters at Marsfield, Sydney or partner institute (subject to any COVID restrictions).

A typical session involves two hours of telescope time with a half hour briefing immediately prior to the observing. Sessions usually run from 10.30 am to 1.10pm.

As preparation for the observing session we aim to give your students a background talk. This includes an introduction to radio astronomy, an outline of how the Parkes radio telescope works, the discovery and science of pulsars and an overview of our observing session. This talk takes one class lesson and is preferably delivered a week or two before the actual observing session either online or in-person. If it is delivered on the actual observing day the session would start an hour earlier to accommodate the talk.

Frequently-Asked Questions

There is no charge for schools participating in a  PULSE@Parkes session. If your students visit onsite the school is responsible for any travel costs.

Visit our Apply page for details and the online application form. You may nominate up to three preferred slots for your session and whether online or onsite (Sydney) session is preferred. Our team will be in touch within a couple of weeks to let you know which. if any, session you have been allocated.

Sessions may be held onsite in our headquarters at Marsfield, Sydney or online so that schools across Australia can participate. We also run some in-person sessions at host partner institutions such as VSSEC elsewhere in Australia .

The program is aimed at students in Years 10 -12. For those in Year 10 if may help students decide on subject selections for their senior studies. For those in Years 11 and 12 it may help inform their study or career options beyond high school. For Years 11 and 12 we have had classes studying Physics, Investigating Science and Extension Science.

The project does not assume any detailed prior knowledge of pulsars or astronomy though students should have studied astronomy as a component of Stage 4 Science (Years 7-8). We recommend that the students and teachers work through the material provided on this website prior to an observing session to become familiar with the basic concepts of radio telescopes, pulsars and how to conduct observations. Further information will be provided in the pre-observing session talk.

No. Our program is suitable for all students. We are able to adapt our delivery to respond to student capabilities and interests.

A document providing curriculum mapping for the Australian Curriculum, Science: 7-10 and Senior Physics is available as a PDF or Wor Docx.

A typical session lasts just over 2 1/2 hours, most sessions go from 10:30 – 13:10 including two hours of time with the telescope.

As a minimum you should have a classroom with data projector, webcam, speakers and reliable internet. Ideally if students have their own laptops or tablets they can also interact directly with our team. Students will need access to computers or tablets with internet connections for the online data analysis but no additional software installation is required.

No. We use the Microsoft Teams videoconferencing system that runs through a browser. Similarly our online database and data analysis module are browser based. We recommend a brief test session to test connectivity and your setup ahead of the classroom session.

Absolutely! We encourage you and your students to ask our PULSE@Parkes astrophysicists any science questions they’d like.

Yes, our astrophysicists will share some career advice and study options with your students.

Yes! All data is freely and publicly available from our database. The online data analysis module is also publicly available.

Yes, we encourage students to use their data as a basis for further investigations. Some suggestions are available in this document. Some students have gone on to do more detailed open-ended investigations or research projects for eg, IB Extended Essays or NSW Extension Science. We are keen to support such projects subject to staff availability. If interested please contact our Program Coordinator, Robert Hollow, (email: robert.hollow(at)csiro.au).

Next available dates

Unlike optical telescopes that only work when the Sun sets, the Parkes radio telescope and PULSE@Parkes program operates during the day, even when it is cloudy!

To make your selection easier, simply look at our availability calendar and apply online. Please note that there is high demand for places so it helps if you are flexible with your choices and willing to share the session with other schools.

The Parkes telescope schedule is set in two semesters each year; April – September, then October to March the following year. You can view the full schedule here:

Teacher resources

Curriculum mapping

PULSE@Pakes has been mapped to the Australian Year 10 Science Curriculum and the Stage 6 Physics curriculum. PDF and Word docx mapping documents are available.

Observing resources

  1. Data analysis
  2. Pulsar list: Excel spreadsheet or PDF
  3. Reference sheet of links for sessions: PDF or Word docx
  4. Suggested investigations: Word docx or PDF