One of the world’s foremost space scientists inspired the next generation of stargazers at Truro High School as he officially opened the school’s new solar observatory – the first of its kind on mainland UK.

Professor Richard Harrison is head of RAL Space physics division and chief scientist for RAL Space as well as being the principal investigator for space instrumentation at NASA and the European Space Agency.

He was joined by pupils, staff and astronomical professionals to officially launch the new observatory which will be operated by the school’s science department in conjunction with the Roseland Observatory, led by director, Brian Sheen.

Professor Harrison hosted lectures throughout the day to introduce pupils to the possibilities the observatory holds and delve into the fascinating world of space science. The launch was rounded off with a special one-off lecture where the space scientist delved into the fascinating physics behind the 1999 solar eclipse.

Professor Harrison said: “The UK has a long heritage for building and operating solar instrumentation on international spacecraft, playing a leading part in studying our nearest star and in understanding its impact on near-Earth space. Indeed, we now talk about ‘space weather’ and the UK Government has formally listed the impacts of space weather on the national risk register.”

The observatory will enable pupils at the school to record the progress of sunspots on a day by day basis across the face of the Sun. In the future it should enable the school to produce a daily space weather forecast, similar to the one produced by the Met Office.

Truro High’s teatime astronomy club is one of a large number of extra-curricular activities at the school. This summer two pupils celebrated their decision to join the club as they collected grades A and B in their astronomy GCSEs, despite only being in years nine and ten.