Take your students on a fascinating journey to ground-breaking scientific advances in modern astronomy from Galileo’s first telescopic discoveries to the recent Nobel prize winning direct observations of gravitational waves.

Student Learning Objectives:

  • Get familiar with landmarks in the progression of science, especially astronomy, over the last 500 years
  • Comprehend and appreciate the power of a telescope as an observational instrument and its crucial role in the development of modern astronomy
  • Understand the key role of creative engineering in the development of ultrasensitive instruments that have enabled scientists to “listen” to space’s gravitational waves –a direct testimony to disturbances in spacetime.


Astronomy, telescope, observations, sky, planets, satellites, stars, sun, sunspots, lenses, mirrors, light, time, space, black holes, electromagnetic radiation, gravitational waves, geocentric theory, heliocentric theory, general theory of relativity.

Age Range

13-15, 16-18


School, Museum (onsite or virtually), Research Facility


5-6 hours (in school)
1.5 hours (in the museum)

Technical Requirements

Internet, smartphones, PCs, tablets

Connection with the curriculum

This virtual pathway is a multidisciplinary learning tool, the using of which can include elements from several subjects. It represents multidisciplinary elements for STEAM pedagogy. More specifically, in relation to the Greek school curriculum::

  • Junior High School (13-15 year old students): This pathway is related to the subject of Physics. Specifically:
    • Grade A: Physics and the Scientific Methodology, Energy and Matter
    • Grade B: Fundamental Interactions, Conservation of Energy
    • Grade C: Electromagnetism, Light, Elementary Particles, Standard Model, Cosmology, Theory of Relativity
  • Senior High school (15-18 year old students): This pathway is related to the subject of Physics. Specifically:
    • Grade A: Physics and the Scientific Methodology, Fundamental Forces, Gravity, Energy and Matter, Electromagnetism, Refraction and Optics, Fields and Waves, Modern Physics and Technology
    • Grade B: Physics and the Scientific Methodology, Energy, Forces, Mechanical Models, Fields and Waves, Gravitational Field, Modern Physics and Technology
    • Grade C: Physics and the Scientific Methodology, Energy, Forces, Mechanical Models, Fields and Waves, Gravitational Field, Elementary Particles and Cosmology, Modern Physics and Technology


This educational pathway follows an inquiry-based pedagogical approach, organised into 3 logical stages:

  1. Pre-Visit
  2. Visit
  3. Post-Visit

Teacher Support Materials

Useful resources, suitable for the age group of your students, are available at the “Teacher Support Materials” tab.

Follow-up Activities

Click on the “Follow-up Activities” tab to find out more activities for schools offered by Ellinogermaniki Agogi. We also suggest several virtual pathways we think suitable for your students to continue their educational journey they began with this pathway.

Phase 1: Provoke curiosity

One way to grasp the curiosity of your students is to present them with attractive digital content. We suggest that you start with images of Galileo and his telescopes along with his beautiful drawings of celestial objects. The best place to get this material is the dedicated webpages that our partners of Galileo Museum have created. Specifically, we recommend you visit “Galileo’s New World” and “Galileo and the Celestial Phenomena” that contain all you need to initiate Phase 1.

Immediately after that, you can show your students the first-ever image of a black hole captured by the Event Horizon Telescope.

Scientists have obtained the first image of a black hole, using Event Horizon Telescope observations of the center of the galaxy M87. The image shows a bright ring formed as light bends in the intense gravity around a black hole that is 6.5 billion times more massive than the Sun. This long-sought image provides the strongest evidence to date for the existence of supermassive black holes and opens a new window onto the study of black holes, their event horizons, and gravity. Credit: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

Squeezing nearly 500-years history of astronomy in one lesson can be as challenging as it can be “wow-provoking”! What a better way to include in Phase 1 a reference to the Nobel Prize-winning discovery of gravitational ways? We think that the best pre-visit resource for this ground-breaking discovery is this 3 minute video by our partners in Nobel Prize Museum that explains it:

This video is part of the Nobel Prize Lessons 2017, an easy to use toolkit that we strongly recommend you consider both for the pre- and post-visit stage of this pathway.

During Phase 1, you may want to ask your students several questions spanning across the history and evolution of astronomy from the ancient times to Galileo’s times and today. Here is a list of indicative questions that can be addressed to your students: 

  • How was the sky observed in the ancient times?
  • What instruments were used to do so?
  • How was the Universe imagined thousands of years ago?
  • How did Galileo observe the sky?
  • What instruments did he use to observe celestial objects?
  • Which of Galileo’s telescopic observations did provide empirical evidence for the heliocentric model of the Universe?
  • What is our current understanding of the Universe?
  • What instruments have scientists developed to help us understand the evolution of the Universe?
  • What exactly are black holes, how do they look like, and how are they formed?
  • What happens when two black holes collide to each other?
  • Which experiment has for the first-time observed disturbances in spacetime created by a collision between two black holes?


Keep in mind that during this phase your students are not expected to provide evidence-based answers to the above questions. Most probably, some students might already be familiar with some of these topics, while some others might have never heard of, for example, gravitational waves. The ultimate aim at this phase is to trigger all students’ interest and curiosity in the advancement of human knowledge, the historical milestones over the last centuries, and the technological achievements that made possible the tremendous progress we have seen in modern Astronomy.

Phase 2: Active Investigation

At the end of Phase 1, you may want to advise your students to start investigating -at least some- of the questions they were presented with at home, at their own pace. For example, you can ask them to search about Galileo and his astronomical discoveries and what followed his groundbreaking observations. Another question may be “what, and how, we know what we know about our universe, black holes, and gravitational waves?”. Doing their “homework” will help them come to the next class in possession of the new information and their questions formulated, and as a result they will likely make the most out of the “Visit” stage.

To help them through their home/free time inquiries, you can suggest to them the following digital designed learning environments, and technology and media products:

Designed Learning Environment: Virtual Visit to the Galileo Museum

By visiting virtually the Galileo Museum, the students will be able to walk through the museum’s rooms, browse through all objects exhibited, watch videos by thematic area, and access biographical data of Galileo Galilei but also of all object inventors/makers.

Technology and Media Products

  • About Black Holes and their Observations by the Event Horizon Telescope

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) — a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration — was designed to capture images of a black hole. On April 10th 2019, in coordinated press conferences across the globe, EHT researchers revealed that they succeeded, unveiling the first direct visual evidence of a supermassive black hole and its shadow.

EHT has a great collection of videos. Ask your students to check them out!

  • About Gravitational Waves and their Discovery by the LIGO Detector

The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics went to Rainer WeissBarry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne for their decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves. As a result, there has been an explosion of resources available on the web about this ground-breaking scientific discovery. Amongst those resources, we have selected what we think are the most interesting and useful for your students. For more quality educational resources, you can also visit the LIGO dedicate webpage.

LIGO: A Passion for Understanding


LIGO: A Discovery that Shook the World (Episode 3 of the Advanced LIGO Documentary Project)

LIGO Laboratory, California: On the Front Lines of Space-Time


Gravitational Wave Astronomy: Opening a New Window on the Universe | Martin Hendry | TEDxGlasgow

Following your students’ engagement with the activities suggested above, you can then encourage them to propose possible explanations to questions emerged from these activities. In this way, you will actually prepare the ground for conducting an active investigation as part of the ‘Visitphase. For example, you can encourage your students to work in groups and prepare presentations in which they:

  • Compare Galileo’s drawings with modern astronomical photos
  • Explain the basic structure of a telescope and the properties of its lenses
  • Present the evolution of the telescope.

Phase 3: Creation

This is the core element of the ‘Visit’ phase and can be realised either in the school classroom/lab, by remotely using science learning resources made available by the science centres on the web, or during a physical or virtual visit to a research facility. 
For the purposes of this Virtual Pathway, students are invited to get engaged in activities situated in two science learningcontexts: 
  • After-school Science/STEM Clubs
  • Outreach Programmes


Αfter-school Science/STEM Club
Activity title
In the footsteps of Galileo: Observing the moons of Jupiter
Supported form of learning and educational objective
Guided Inquiry (focus on scientific content knowledge, scientific reasoning skills)
Short Description
As part of EA’s After School Astronomy Club, students conduct observations of Jupiter (and other planets) by using a modern telescope. They also gather evidence of their observations (e.g., digitally processed images of Jupiter) and then compare their observations with the ones made by Galileo.
Complementary Activities
You may also want to run the following activities:
  • Build your own telescope (hands-on activity with simple materials)
  • Use the Stellarium Astronomy Software to perform observations of Jupiter and its moons, and compare those observations with the ones made by Galileo.


Science Outreach Programmes
Activity title
The Discovery of Gravitational Waves: A Virtual Visit to the VIRGO Experiment
Supported form of learning and educational objective
Guided Inquiry (focus on scientific content knowledge, scientific reasoning skills)
Short Description: As part of VIRGO’s outreach programme, your students can take part in a virtual visit to the experiment, get introduced to basic concepts of General Relativity and Astrophysics, understand the basic structure of the VIRGO experiment and its optical scheme, perform a treasure hunt inside the interferometer experimental building, and discuss live with a scientist the Nobel prize-winning discovery of gravitational waves and its importance for improving our understanding of the Universe.
Phase 4: Discussion

This is a transitional phase on the borderline between the ‘Visit’ and the ‘Post-Visit’ sections of the Educational Pathway. ‘Discussion’ can take place either during or after the ‘visit’, or both, depending on whether you consider that the use of the digital ‘exhibits’ is necessary (or feasible) at this stage. Ideally, ‘Discussion’, and particularly the step of ‘Explanation based on Evidence’, should take place during the activity, to reinforce the link between the physical or virtual experience of using the resource and the mental processing of the observed information by the students. However, ‘Discussion’ can also be part of the ‘Post-visit’ phase.


  • Explanation based on evidence: For the purposes of the proposed Educational Pathway, this phase is the final part of the virtual visit to the VIRGO experiment (see Table 4). This takes the form of a Q&A session, during which students pose questions to a scientist, who in turn provides answers and correct explanations that help students clarify misconceptions about e.g., what gravitational waves are, what a laser interferometer is and how it works, etc.
  • Consider other explanations: During the same Q&A session, students are invited to consider alternative explanations concerning for example the role environmental factors (e.g., seismic noise) in the detection process of gravitational waves.

Phase 5: Discussion and Reflection

This is the core element of the ‘Post-Visit’ section and can be realised either in the school classroom/lab or at home. For the purposes of the proposed Educational Pathway, students are invited to get engaged in activities situated in the context of technology and media products. Here are our suggestions: 
In the Footsteps of Galileo: Observing the Moons of Jupiter | Post-visit Activity Suggestion
The students together with their teacher and/or a science educator/communicator reflect on the activities conducted during the ‘Creation’ phase, after watching together the “Galileo: Discovering Jupiter’s Moons” video.  Some questions that may help kick off the discussion and reflection:
  • Why did Galileo focus his observations on Jupiter?
  • Why did he repeat those observations?
  • What where his main research questions?
  • What did Galileo do to answer those questions?
  • What was probably the most famous claim made by Galileo?
  • What were the consequences of that claim?
  • How did society at his time react to that claim?
  • What makes Galileo the first modern scientist?
The Discovery of Gravitational Waves: A Virtual Visit to the VIRGO Experiment | Post-visit Activity Suggestion
Following the completion of the ‘Virtual Visit to VIRGO Experiment’, you can utilise digital resources that help engage your students in a discussion and reflection process. These resources include: 


Phase 6: Communication Explanation

Students are invited to communicate their science learning experience in the form of report with their findings, presenting and justifying its proposed explanations to other groups and their teacher. This part can even be extended to write under your mentoring  an article and submit it to the Open Schools Journal for Open Science.

The Open Schools Journal for Open Science is the first European peer review scientific journal which accepts original papers written by school age students from Primary to Secondary schools across Europe under the mentoring of their Teachers on all aspects of Science, Engineering and Technology. Students and Teachers via school projects produce scientific data that are invited to be published in this journal.  The Journal publishes articles on a regular basis. Publication is free of charge and the Journal carries articles in various languages.

Below you can find links to digital educational resources that can help your students delve deeper into the topics covered by this Educational Pathway:

Want to take your students on a walk to our solar system? Try out the Virtual Solar System Pathway!

Interested in learning more about our place in the universe? The 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics is about the universe and its history. Find the lesson about this here.

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VIRTUAL PATHWAYS is a project funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union (REF: 2020-1-FI01-KA226-SCH-092545). The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.