Outside the school curriculum: where to study astronomy


We live in an age of rapid space exploration: scientists and researchers are creating super-powerful telescopes, discovering distant galaxies, photographing black holes and seriously discussing the colonization of Mars and the Moon. However, for two years now there have been no astronomy lessons on the schedule of Russian schoolchildren.

  At the same time, children continue to be interested in space and even gain worldwide recognition.

Progress in the space sector is impossible without the training of scientific personnel, which begins already at the stage of school education. But even those who are not going to explore space need to know about its structure.
Astronomy at school: history of the subject

Astronomy appeared in the school curriculum in 1932: then one astronomy lesson per week was introduced in the 10th grade. The young Soviet state needed to raise a generation that looked at the sky without religious prejudices.

In 1993, astronomy was removed from the list of compulsory school subjects, and some topics from this course were transferred to the program on physics and the natural world.

In 2017, 35 compulsory hours of astronomy (one lesson per week) were reintroduced in high schools. According to the Ministry of Education and Science, this should not only increase the level of knowledge about the structure of the solar system and space, but also motivate schoolchildren to study physics and mathematics.

Six years later, in 2023, the Ministry of Education repeated the experience of 1993 and actually combined astronomy and physics courses.

To be fair, we note that in almost all space-faring countries (for example, the USA, China, Japan and India), astronomy is also included in high school physics or science courses. Finding schools where it is a separate subject is not so easy.
When to start studying astronomy

From an early age, children ask questions related to astronomy in one way or another. “We begin to introduce children to this science from an early age, telling them why day follows night, why spring comes after winter, what the Moon and stars are,” says Alexander Perkhnyak, head of the astronomical complex and observatory of the Moscow Planetarium. “For astronomy there is no concept of age: if a child develops an interest, then this interest must be supported and developed.”

But, according to experts, it is worth starting a serious study of astronomy in grades 5–6, when children have already acquired basic knowledge in subjects such as the world around them and natural history. If a child wants to connect his life with astronomy or, say, space instrumentation, he will be able to choose a technical profile at school.
How to study astronomy: bet on interest

Looking at the stars, visiting the planetarium, going to classes and reading books - this is the recipe for the right educational track for those who are interested in astronomy.

Today, planetariums are educational centers where children and adults can learn more about the mysteries of the Universe.

During dome programs, visitors are shown a projection of the starry sky with minimal distortion - just as we see it from Earth. In planetariums you can observe solar system objects, nebulae, comets and meteorites. Documentary films, which are broadcast in cinemas at planetariums, are designed for viewers of different ages and tell about the history of space exploration, our planet and the latest discoveries.

Planetariums often host lectures and operate museums where you can get acquainted with astronomical exhibits and instruments.

In total there are about 40 planetariums in Russia - we will talk about five of them.

1. Moscow Planetarium

The oldest planetarium in Russia: it was opened in 1929. Includes an observatory, a star hall with a dome 25 meters in diameter and a 4D cinema.

The planetarium houses several museums. At the Urania Museum, you can learn about the history of the development of tools and methods for studying the Universe, see a model of the Solar System and a collection of meteorites. And in the interactive museum "Lunarium" children can conduct experiments themselves, touch exhibits, and explore physical and natural phenomena.

2. St. Petersburg Planetarium

A modern educational center with five halls that host popular science programs in astronomy, cosmonautics, physics, geography and natural history. The diameter of the geodesic dome here is the largest in the world - 37 meters.

The planetarium also houses a small astronomical observatory with modern telescopes for observing celestial objects.

Younger schoolchildren will be interested in visiting the “Space Travel” interactive hall, where educational events and quests are held. Here you can save the planet from disaster, go into the depths of black holes and control the spaceship yourself.


For older children, there is a laboratory where unusual experiences and experiments are demonstrated. This is a great opportunity to see with your own eyes how the laws of physics, mechanics and optics work.

3. Kaluga Planetarium

The planetarium was opened in 1967 and since then has been operating in the building of the K. E. Tsiolkovsky Museum of the History of Cosmonautics. The diameter of the dome is 10 meters.

The museum itself was created with the participation of Sergei Korolev and Yuri Gagarin. Today he coordinates the activities of all space museums in Russia. There are many interesting exhibits here: spacesuits of the first cosmonauts, an ejection seat, lunar soil, an exact copy of the Vostok spacecraft, etc.

The planetarium has a unique German full-dome projection system, thanks to which a complete immersion effect is created and viewers can feel like astronauts who have gone into outer space. The hall shows programs about the origin of planets, constellations, lunar and solar eclipses and space exploration. Lectures, exhibitions and popular science events are also held here.

4. Large Planetarium named after cosmonaut Anna Kikina (Novosibirsk)

The Children's and Youth Astrophysical Center includes a star hall with a 16-meter dome, two observatory towers, a Foucault tower with a pendulum of the same name, and a park for astronomical observations.

The attention of schoolchildren is attracted by the interactive platform for scientific experiments: here you can see fire tornadoes, shows with Tesla coils and plasma balls.

The planetarium hosts classes for preschool and school-age children, as well as citywide festivals and events. And on the ground floor there is a studio where fulldome films are shot.

5. Yaroslavl Planetarium of the V.V. Tereshkova Center

The planetarium was opened in 1948 in one of the churches of the former Kazan Convent, and in 2011 it moved to a new building. Today it is a large cognitive and educational resource center. The diameter of the dome is 12 meters.

The unique planetarium system combines optical-mechanical and digital projections. Thanks to this, viewers create the illusion of a full-fledged three-dimensional image.

There are dome programs about the history of space exploration, the planets of the solar system, black holes and the origin of the Universe.
Clubs and schools

Thematic clubs and schools operate throughout Russia, many of which have a history of more than 50 years. They grew up on the basis of universities, museums, planetariums and former palaces of pioneers. Students observe stars and planets there and gain fundamental knowledge. We selected five circles in different cities of Russia, in some of them training is conducted full-time, in others - in absentia.

1. Club “Space Squad” of the Museum of Cosmonautics at VDNKh

Here they train future engineers and spaceship designers, and introduce children to the basics of astrophysics and astronautics. For students, meetings are held with astronauts and scientists, astronomical observations and trips to aerospace and astronomical industry facilities are organized. Training lasts from September to May.

Classes are paid and take place once a week.

Age: 8–15 years.

2. Correspondence astronomy school at the Center for Distance Education, Faculty of Physics, Moscow State University

This is a joint project of the State Astronomical Institute named after. P.K. Sternberg, the Astronomical Society and Moscow astronomy teachers. Children from all over the country can study here, since education is conducted by correspondence. The school pays great attention to preparation for astronomy Olympiads, and high school students write research papers on astronomy and astrophysics.

Classes are free, the schedule is individual.

Age: 5th–11th grades.

3. Astronomical circle of the Moscow Planetarium

The circle has been operating since 1934. Every year a new intake opens; based on the results of an interview, 80–90 schoolchildren are selected from those who wish. The program lasts three years. Classes are taught by planetarium specialists, and scientists and astronauts come to visit. Club members participate in the Moscow Astronomical Olympiad and often take prizes. “Many graduates of the circle become world-famous scientists,” says Alexander Perkhnyak. “Of course, not everyone connects their lives with astronomy, but the majority go to technical universities.”

Classes are paid and take place once a week.

Age: 6th–7th grades.

4. Club at the Astronomical Department of the Faculty of Mathematics and Mechanics of St. Petersburg State University

The club has been operating for 15 years and prepares St. Petersburg schoolchildren for participation in astronomy Olympiads. During classes, university teachers share knowledge with students not only in astronomy, but also in some areas of physics and mathematics.

Lessons are free and take place once or twice a week.

Age: 7th–10th grades.

5. Irkutsk Astronomical School

The school operates at the Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Classes are taught by teachers and specialists of the institute. The main goal of the course is to prepare children to participate in Olympiads. Practical lessons are held at the Irkutsk Planetarium.

Free classes

intense, take place once a week.

Age: 9–11th grades.

Many colorful books on astronomy for children are published in Russia, but finding a truly high-quality publication with the correct information is not so easy.

When choosing books, you need to pay attention to the authors: whether they are considered experts in their field. In addition, it is worth considering the number of reprints, as well as the quality of the illustrations: they must be visual, otherwise children will not understand complex topics and phenomena. Let's talk about five books on astronomy that you can trust.

1. Elena Kachur, Anastasia Balatenysheva “Fascinating astronomy. Children's Encyclopedia" (publishing house "Mann, Ivanov and Ferber")

The author of a series of educational encyclopedias for children, Elena Kachur, knows exactly what questions concern little researchers and how to talk about complex things in simple language. Together with the inquisitive Chevostik, children will look at the Moon and the planets of the solar system through a telescope, learn how planets differ from stars, what a light year is and where a comet’s tail comes from. The book, illustrated by the artist Anastasia Balatenysheva, went through nine reprints.

For preschool and primary school age.

2. Dominic Volliman, Ben Newman “Professor Astrocat and his journey into space” (Mann, Ivanov and Ferber publishing house)

Scientist, Doctor of Science in the field of quantum physics, Dominic Walliman is a well-known popularizer of astronomy. His lectures at British universities, schools and family festivals attract audiences of all ages. In the book, he explains complex physical phenomena in simple words. In this he is helped by stylish and informative illustrations by artist Ben Newman, which both children and adults will enjoy looking at.

For primary and secondary school age.

3. Will Gather “Secrets of Space. Encyclopedia" (publishing house "Eksmodetstvo")

While working on the book, Will Gather, a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Great Britain, consulted with specialists from leading observatories, NASA and the European Space Agency. The book is made in the format of an encyclopedia: each phenomenon is dedicated to a separate spread with an illustration and a small text.

For primary and secondary school age.

4. Stephen Hawking, Lucy Hawking, Christophe Galfar “George and the Secrets of the Universe” (publishing house “Pink Giraffe”)

The famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawking wrote this book about space adventures together with his daughter and a former graduate student. According to the authors, the book presents a modern view of cosmology from the Big Bang to the present. Readers will learn a lot about black holes, asteroids, quasars, galaxies and parallel universes.

For middle school age.

5. Elena Kirichek, Ivan Panchenko “Unknown Sun. Miracles. Data. Riddles" (Ayar publishing house)

The authors of the encyclopedia are professional astrophysicists. The book was scientifically edited at the Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences and received a number of awards, including being named “Book of the Year 2021.” Here is the latest information about our Star. According to the plot, the dog Bullet and the flea Karl go to the depths of the Sun, where amazing discoveries await them.

For schoolchildren and parents.

No matter what age a child begins to become interested in astronomy, parents can always figure out how to maintain interest in this science. After all, astronomy not only provides fundamental knowledge about the Universe in which we live, but also teaches us to think globally and develop a holistic perception of the world around us.

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