The Bath Physics Observatory (BPO)

Organization profile

We want to offer high-quality observational astrophysics projects to our undergraduate students that are research-led and provide the chance of "hands-on" practical astronomy. Although it is commonplace to expose students to astronomical data, for example, in the form of archival images or catalogues, there is a clear disconnect between lectures on, say, celestial motion and where the objects may be in the sky and how to observe them. With the new Physics with Astrophysics degree, and high-quality "back-garden" astronomy now being relatively inexpensive, it is the ideal time to establish the Bath Physics Observatory. In 2019 four staff members formed a "telescope-group" aiming to provide high-quality and accessible undergraduate observing projects. Dr Vicky Scowcroft is a Lecturer in the Astrophysics group whose research on variable stars is ideally suited to projects with small telescopes. Dr Steve Davies is a Senior Lecturer who has many years of experience in instrumentation and is an expert amateur astronomer. Dr Gary Mathlin is a Senior Teaching Fellow, Director of Teaching for Natural Sciences, and has a background in observational astronomy. Dr Peter Sloan is a Senior Lecturer in Physics who is also a keen amateur astronomer.  The Astrophysics group in the Department of Physics at the University of Bath was founded in 2015, coinciding with the establishment of Bath's Physics with Astrophysics degree programs in the same year. Across all years we now have 124 students enrolled on Astrophysics programs. Until 2019, the department had no telescopes to underpin undergraduate project work for either BSc Final Year projects or M-level masters projects. The Bath Physics Observatory, affiliated to the Astrophysics group but a separate entity, is now operational in a purpose built observatory with two fully go-to automated telescope and cooled-camera systems. 

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