Sacred Heart Greenwich shoots for the stars by relaunching astronomy course


For the first time in 12 years, Sacred Heart Greenwich is offering an astronomy course to its twelfth-grade students. In the course, seniors learn everything from the history of astronomy to the cutting-edge astronomical discoveries of today. Upper School Science Teacher Mr. Robert Morrow is partnering with Sacred Heart Astronomy Technician Mr. Rick Bria to extend the scope of the course by enabling students to use the Mother Aloysia Hardey, RSCJ Observatory for a visual learning experience.
Astronomy is the study of objects and matter outside the Earth’s atmosphere and their physical and chemical properties, according Sacred Heart astronomy students are currently learning about the history of astronomy. More specifically, they are exploring the  Renaissance-era scientist and scholar Galileo Galilei’s contributions to the field as well as the creation of the telescope.
Astronomy is one of five non-elective science courses that Sacred Heart seniors may pursue in their final year of study. The other courses include Advanced Placement (AP) Biology, AP Chemistry, AP Physics, Honors Environmental Science, and AP Environmental Science. In addition, Sacred Heart offers an elective Science Research course that sophomores may pursue through senior year. Seniors may choose to take one or more of these five classes to fulfill senior year course requirements. 

The Mary Aloysia Hardey, RSCJ Observatory at Sacred Heart Greenwich is open to the entire Sacred Heart Community. Morgan Smith ’20.

Mr. Morrow teaches astronomy at Sacred Heart. This is Mr. Morrow’s third year at the school as a freshman physics teacher but it is his first year teaching astronomy. Prior to working at Sacred Heart, he taught astronomy at Fairfield Warde High School for ten years. 
“I love the curiosity we all have,” Mr. Morrow said. “I love that we all have questions that we don’t necessarily have answers to. I am thrilled that the school has given me the opportunity to teach this course.”
Working alongside Mr. Morrow, Mr. Bria controls and maintains the Hardey Observatory. The outdoor observatory features a computerized, 16-inch telescope with 800 times magnification, as well as ten eight-inch telescopes, according to 
“I think having the ability to make observations at the Mary Aloysia Hardey Observatory with Mr. Bria is a really wonderful opportunity,” Mr. Morrow said. “It is an incredible resource to be able to work with him and hopefully be able to set up projects for the students to get involved with.”
Although Sacred Heart has not offered the astronomy course previously, Mr. Bria has been opening the Hardey Observatory every Thursday night for the past nine years to allow students, parents, and faculty to utilize the facility. With the help of students, Mr. Bria recently documented an exoplanet, a planet that is outside of the solar system, 750 light years away.
Students come down [to the Hardey Observatory], I show them stuff: objects, […]  planets, star clusters, nebulae, galaxies, and then try to explain how things work, how galaxies form, and how the nebulae form,” Mr. Bria said. 
Mr. Bria captures a photo of Jupiter at the Mary Aloysia Hardey, RSCJ Observatory. Courtesy of Mr. Bria.

Seniors who are taking of the course are enjoying their time in astronomy with Mr. Morrow.
“My favorite part of the course is that I can apply my knowledge to real life and observe the stars,” senior Kaitlin Reilly said. “I also enjoy sharing my knowledge with other people outside of the class because not many people have the opportunity to take an astronomy course.”
Mr. Morrow believes the astronomy course piques students’ curiosity and provides them with skills that are helpful beyond the classroom.
“Astronomy is an applied science course that requires the students to learn information and research a range of topics. Using this, they must then apply this knowledge to short and long-term activities and projects,” Mr. Morrow said. “Learning how to take the knowledge that has been learned in the classroom setting and then apply and use it in a range of settings outside the classroom is a critical skill that all students benefit from.”
-Morgan Smith, Staff Writer