2018 June 21st at 10.07 GMT
The longest day of the year!

The Earth’s axis is tilted by 23.4 degrees and so the plane of the Earth’s equator is tilted with respect to the plane of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun; referred to as the ecliptic.

The solstice is an astronomical event, caused by Earth’s tilt on its axis and its motion in orbit around the sun. Earth’s Northern and Southern Hemispheres trade places in receiving the sun’s light and warmth most directly. At the June solstice, Earth is positioned in its orbit so that our world’s North Pole is leaning most toward the sun. As seen from Earth, the sun is directly overhead at noon 23.5 degrees north of the equator, at an imaginary line encircling the globe.
All locations north of the equator have days longer than 12 hours at the June solstice. Meanwhile, all locations south of the equator have days shorter than 12 hours.

This means that during the Northern Hemisphere summer, the Sun illuminates the Northern Hemisphere more than the Southern Hemisphere. During this time we receive more hours of sunlight and the longest day is known as the summer solstice. During the winter, the Sun illuminates the Southern Hemisphere more than the Northern Hemisphere because the North Pole is titled away from the Sun. During this time we receive fewer hours of sunlight and the shortest day (and longest night) is known as the winter solstice.
But at two points in the year the Sun will illuminate the Northern and Southern Hemispheres equally – these are known as the equinoxes: the autumnal equinox in October and vernal equinox in March. It’s the moment in which the plane of Earth’s equator passes through the centre of the Sun’s disk or the moment that the Sun passes the celestial equator from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere or vice a versa. On these dates, there are approximately equal hours of daylight and darkness.

Where does the word ‘equinox’ come from?
The word equinox comes from the Latin aequinoctium meaning ‘equal night’.
Where does the word ‘solstice’ come from?
The world ‘solstice’ comes from the Latin solstitium meaning ‘Sun stands still’ because the apparent movement of the Sun’s path north or south stops before changing direction.
Why don’t the solstices and equinoxes occur on the same days annually?
The Earth takes approximately 365¼ days to go around the Sun. This is why we have a leap year every four years to add another day to our calendar; and so that there is not a gradual drift of date through the seasons.
For the same reason the precise time of the equinoxes are not the same each year, and generally will occur about six hours later each year, with a jump of a day (backwards) on leap years.

Enjoy the day!

3-2-1 LIFT OFF!!

Exciting times for Priestlands (Year 7) Rocket Scientists…
…Wednesday 4th April 2018 saw the successful launch of of a NASA WXR Black Brant sounding rocket, carrying our very own Priestlands Penguin micro-sculpture into space!

The UK schools Sugre-1 micro-sculpture competition entries were sent from the UK to the Marshall Islands in the Pacific a few weeks ago ready for the launch. The 120 micro-sculptures are a small part of the payload on the McEntaffer Group rocket experiment from Penn State University, USA.

Priestlands Penguin…

NASA launched the Water Recovery X-Ray rocket (WRX) from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. This suborbital sounding rocket is a research rocket that flies in a parabolic path, according to Penn State, which is working with the space agency on this project. The WRX will be the first sounding rocket mission from the Kwajalein Atoll to utilize NASA’s newly developed water recovery system, an alternative to typical land recoveries.
The parabolic flight path allows for the micro-sculptures to be released and filmed in micro-gravity, these mini flight paths will then be analysed by UK based Dynamic Imaging Analytics (DIAL), who supported the schools micro-sculpture competition.

The short flight was successful and the rocket was recovered from the water!  So fingers crossed, eventually Spacepenguin will be returned to  Priestlands after its ‘out of this world’ adventure!

This is the first of two NASA launches of astronomy experiments this April, to study how stars in our galaxy are born and how they die, from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. “Supernova remnants in our galaxy are good to study due to their proximity, which makes them large, bright targets on the sky,” said Randy McEntaffer, principal investigator of WRX at Penn State University.


Falcon heavy successfully launched into space.

Friday 6th February 2018, after a five year delay on initial launch plans, the SPACEX FALCON HEAVY rocket took to the skies.

Three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores, strapped together, whose 27 Merlin engines together generated more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, (equal to approximately eighteen 747 Boeing aircraft), launched the Falcon 9 rocket into space.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 Heavy has been designed to carry humans into space, flying manned missions in the near future to a moon base and on further than ever before to Mars.
But this inaugural  flight allowed owner entrepreneur Elon Musk to have a little “fun”, sending his red Tesla car as payload, which was released from the fairing into space, to the sound of David Bowie’s A Space Odyssey!

The car with droid driver will eventually orbit Mars!

Two of the three reusable engine boosters, landed back on Earth successfully, however the third failed to reignite, and did not return to land on a drone ship out at sea as planned, unfortunately crashing into the sea taking out at least two of the nine engines.

However this is a relatively minor setback, compared to what has actually been achieved this week by Elon Musk, history has been made by SpaceX!


Potential Hazardous Objects (PHO’s) and Near Earth Objects (NEO’s)

Asteroid 2002 AJ129 will make a close approach to Earth on February 4th, at its closest the asteroid will be no closer than 10 times the distance between Earth and the Moon approximately 4.2 million kilometers.

Asteroid, computer artwork.

2002 AJ129 is an intermediate-sized near-Earth asteroid, somewhere between 0.5 km and 1.2 km acros, was discovered back in 2002, by the former NASA-sponsored Near Earth Asteroid Tracking project at the Maui Space Surveillance Site, Hawaii. The asteroid’s velocity at the time of closest approach, 34 km/s is higher than the majority of near-Earth objects. The high flyby velocity is a result of the asteroid’s orbit, which approaches very close to the Sun, at about 18 million km. Although asteroid 2002 AJ129 is categorized as a Potentially Hazardous Object, it poses no actual threat of collision!
The gigantic asteroid will hurtle past our planet in around two weeks time.
The 2002 AJ129 asteroid has been classed a ‘potentially hazardous’ by Nasa and will fly past at speeds of 107,826kmh.

Anything flying closer than six million miles of our planet is a near earth object (NEO) and could cause severe damage were it ever to crash into Earth.
Deflecting an asteroid on an impact course with Earth requires changing the velocity of the object by less than an inch per second years in advance of the predicted impact.
Nasa is currently moving forward with a refrigerator-sized spacecraft capable of preventing asteroids from colliding with Earth. A test with a small, nonthreatening asteroid is planned for 2024.
This is the first-ever mission to demonstrate an asteroid deflection technique for planetary defence.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) would use what is known as a kinetic impactor technique—striking the asteroid to shift its orbit.

Presently there are 17,495 known Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) around our planet; 17,389 are asteroids.

How does a Super Moon cause flooding?


January 1st 2018 Effects of the Super Moon on Lymington and surrounding areas in the forest.

Astronomers use the term perigee to describe the moon’s closest point to Earth, from Greek words peri meaning “near” and gee meaning “Earth”. Because the moon has an elliptical orbit, one side – called the perigee is about 48,280 km (30,000 miles) closer to Earth than the other side (the apogee).

When the sun, the moon, and Earth line up as the moon orbits Earth, that’s known as syzygy. When this Earth-Moon-Sun system occurs with the perigee side of the moon facing us, and the moon happens to be on the opposite side of Earth from the sun, we get what’s called a perigee-syzygy causing the moon to appear bigger and brighter than usual, known as a supermoon – or more technically, a perigee moon.

Tides work through a differential gravitational effect, with the force of gravity exerted on the far side of Earth, as seen from the moon is slightly less than the force of gravity exerted on the part of the Earth directly beneath it.  Because of the additional distance of approximately 8,000 miles from one side of Earth to the other, the force of gravity weakens rapidly with increasing distance, producing this differential.  So our planet is stretched slightly, along a line between the Earth and moon, the body of the Earth is fairly rigid, so it does not stretch much, but the liquid oceans are much more easily moved; causing tidal bulges.  This differential is increased by the moon being at it’s closest point, producing much higher Perigean tides.

Look out for the Super ‘Blue’ Moon January 31 2018, last chance until  2019!



AND THE WINNERS ARE…Pippa and Chloe!

Well done girls, your 3D printed penguin will fly or float or fall?

Priestlands Penguin…

We will find out next year after it’s trip into space in April 2018.

But seriously well done to all who took part, it has been fun and you are all ‘Team Priestlands’ sending a microsculpture into microgravity!

Part of the rocket where the Microsculptures will be housed before their release.

The competition winning design will be part of the experiment to test novel 3D imaging techniques by tracking the trajectory and interaction of objects and particles in a micro-gravity environment (lunar regolith simulant, and sculptures designed by school and college students)

Journey into Space – April 4th 2018

SμGRE-1 will travel on board the NASA WRX-R sounding rocket on a sub-orbital trajectory. Payloads will experience micro-gravity for approximately 5 minutes (total flight time 30 minutes). Once the primary mission is completed, we will release the sculptures and film them in microgravity floating inside the payload part of the rocket.

Return to Earth

The WRX-R rocket payload will tumble and deploy a parachute before splashdown and recovery from the Pacific Ocean. SμGRE-1 will then be collected and the sculptures returned to the schools, along with the 3D video of them in flight.

We hope for a successful flight and recovery from the Pacific Ocean, and look forward to seeing the film; what will happen to a tiny flightless penguin in space?


YEAR 7 STEM Club micro-sculptures update!

Micro-sculptures in Micro-gravity

Modelling is now well underway…

…but still secret, until the judging on 13th December!
Although after researching, planning, measuring and weighing, to meet the competition criteria it has meant that ideas have been modified, materials have been changed, manufacturing processes altered, all while deadlines are getting closer…
…welcome to the real world of Engineering!
Keep up the good work year 7.

Year 7 STEM Club, micro-sculpture designs are taking shape!


In April 2018, from the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean, this rocket will launch taking 250 tiny sculptures from schools and colleges nationwide, into zero gravity.  They will be filmed on release, as part of an experiment for a UK digital analytics company, their ‘flights’ will be recorded, with copies being sent back to participating schools; if the rocket survives re-entry and is safely recovered!

Priestlands School will hopefully be represented onboard with a micro-sculpture carefully researched, designed and produced as part of Wednesday’s year 7 STEM Club.

Sugar Cube on a Teaspoon

Maximum size of a sugar cube, and weighing no more than 4 grams, our enthusiastic young future engineers are working on maximum volume to minimum weight principles, while competing with each other to produce the winning design, to then represent Priestlands and send their design into space!!

Creative ideas, drafts, and material research has been taking place this half term, prior to making and refining next month, before finally presenting their models for judging in December.

The winning design will be announced at the end of term…

… Good Luck!

Priestlands Science/STEM Club launch!!

 September 2017

STEM (science, technology, engineering & maths)

We are starting the new term with an exciting science design challenge for our new year 7 students…

…SuGRE!  Schools micro-gravity Rocket Experiment!

A School competition to design and build micro-sculptures, with the winning entry being sent into suborbital microgravity onboard a NASA rocket next April!

Look out for further details on the pupil post, and posters in Science and Technology.

Come along and join the fun!

Wednesday lunchtimes, 1-1:30 in S11.

For full competition details check out the website http://www.sugre-1.com

Popcorn and Moles…Year 8 Science Masterclass

Super speedy popping popcorn! with Mr Boultwood, for our future physicists. Followed by,
Is it Safe to Swim in that Pool? with Miss Cooil, for the budding analytical chemists.



Over 40 year 8 students undertook the challenges, to calculate the speed of popcorn, and determine the unknown molarity of an acid.


The Popcorn Challenge:
To calculate the speed of popcorn kernels as they pop.
Firstly the students discussed types of energy, then decided which forms would be involved in their experiment, what they would need to measure and how they would work out the speed.

The practical was to weigh individual kernels, then heat the popcorn, and measure the height the kernels ‘jumped’.

It was certainly fun, corn popping all around the lab, taking some of us by surprise, all with the lovely smell of popcorn!

Next came the hard work…the speed calculations, using:

Gravitational potential energy=mass x height x gravitational field strength

So what is the speed of popcorn?

Answer: 9.9 meters per second!!

The Molarity Challenge:

To work like an analytical chemist, and determine the molarity of an unknown acid which had been spilt in a swimming pool.

The students learnt to carefully and correctly use titration equipment; pipettes, fillers and burettes.

To understand using phenol phthalein indicator to find an end point, then carry out a titration using a 1 M base (NaOH), in order to calculate the molarity of the unknown acid (HCl).


Next came the mathematical part of the challenge, to calculate the unknown molar solution, using the triangle…

Answer: The acid was a 0.8 M solution, lots of the students were spot on or very close! 

Both master classes were exciting, dynamic, fun and full of learning, with new equipment and techniques. The students then had to perform trials, collect results, make mistakes, understand and learn from their errors, before moving on to confidently formulate answers from their calculations. Well done to you all who took part!