Armed with our increased technology, today’s super science kids have the capability to explore faraway stars and galaxies as never before. Compared to ancient astronomers, the sense of awe and wonder is still the same. However, today’s technology offers better opportunities for students to continue on the quest to understand the mysteries of our astonishing universe.
Nowadays, students have the opportunity to command telescopes from their computer screens and receive precise data delivered straight to their laptops. University of Hawai‘i’s interactive workshops excite young students about science and inspire them to include science in their future plans. The workshops provide collaborative learning opportunities that turn into discovery (see “Maui Reaches for the HI STARS”).
“A most incredible discovery was recently made during this summer’s HI STAR retreat,” said Dr. James “JD” Armstrong, a Maui technology education and outreach specialist at the UH Institute for Astronomy. Two of the participating students, Ashley Martin (Maui) and Stephanie Spears (O‘ahu), were attempting to do a follow-up of near-Earth asteroids. “I programmed the Faulkes Telescope South to take images of some of those targets,” said Dr. Armstrong.
Then Martin and Spears found a comet! “The comet we discovered had already been detected. However, we needed confirmation on whether it was really a comet or not,” said Martin.
One of the UH mentors at HI STAR, Marco Micheli, was so excited he was shaking. “We sent an email to the site manager at the Faulkes Telescope South, who was very excited as well,” said Dr. Armstrong.
They submitted the observations to the Minor Planet Center, which sent out a circular from the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The circular explained that this comet was confirmed by the HI STAR students, who also refined the orbit of the comet enough that others could continue observing it. “Both of the students, Martin and Spears, were listed by name on the IAU circular,” said Dr. Armstrong.
“We also had a very exciting observation of a supernova and another group of students confirmed an exoplanet candidate while at HI STAR. This was a great year!” he said.