Teachers/students participate in astrophysical research

Oley Valley School District  |  Posted on

This past summer, four high school students, Eliana Kopicki, Claire Robertson, Wyatt Ulsh and Jeron Zimmerman, traveled with their teacher, Ms. Janine Bonham, to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) to participate in a program called NITARP, which stands for NASA/IPAC Teacher Archive Research Program. The aim of this program is for teachers and students to participate in authentic astrophysical research using archived data from the Spitzer Space Telescope. Over the course of four days, the fIRes team came together with other teachers and students from various states (Tennessee, Minnesota, and Illinois) to work intensively on their data collection and processing. Students and teachers also had the opportunity to tour NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which was one of the highlights of the trip. Research efforts will continue throughout the fall semester, which will culminate in all participants presenting their research at the 241st Meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington. To learn more about the fIRes research team, visit this link.

This was truly an amazing opportunity for all participants. Here is what Oley Valley students had to say about this trip:

Eliana Kopicki – “The most important thing I learned was how to do research work with a team. It was a very important skill to learn because I will probably utilize it a lot in the future and it is good to know how to work efficiently with other people. The most surprising thing I learned was just how small we are in space. We were shown a picture with multiple galaxies, stars and other objects in space. It was quite surprising to learn how small we are and how much undiscovered space there really is.”

Claire Robertson – “The JPL tour was pretty interesting, as was talking about the James Webb photos when they were released. One of the most surprising things I learned was that the easiest way to see what might be interesting is just if it has a different color than the other stuff around it.”

Wyatt Ulsh – “One important thing I learned was how to filter out bad images so that you don’t have to search through every single image on the catalog. One very surprising thing I learned on this trip was how small the Explorer-1 satellite was. When the JPL tour guide said that the model of it was to scale, I thought he was joking. It is important to not be afraid about asking questions. This is why you are there.”

Jeron Zimmerman – “The most interesting thing I learned was how images of the sky are taken; by measuring the amount of one wavelength of light coming through using a filter and then combining multiple different “images” to make an image with color. First of all, to be an astronomer, I think that it is important to be smart enough to understand the concepts you are researching. Secondly, I think you have to be able to do repetitive tasks in order to accomplish your goals. Thirdly, I think it is important to have good presentation skills so that you are able to present your findings and answer questions about them.”