News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters students explore asteroids

Citizen scientists are exploring a body of asteroids called the Trojan to research remnants of the early solar system through NASA's Project Lucy. Launched in 2021, the Lucy Spacecraft has been in orbit for over two years.

Since its launch, Sisters High School staff and students have been involved in surveying the asteroids in occultations around the country. An occultation occurs when one object is hidden from the observer by another object that passes between them.

In previous years, members of the astronomy club have visited Las Vegas and Colorado..

Recently, SHS science teacher and astronomy club supervisor Rima Givot attended an occultation in Baja California, Mexico.

"The unique thing about this experience was that it was a really amazing collaboration between the Lucy mission and Mexican universities," said Givot.

With approximately 100 Mexican, and 50 American students and professors attending, Project Lucy held this gathering to further study Polymele, the Trojan asteroid orbiting Jupiter.

There were 50 teams spread across Baja California with three people on each telescope. Givot was paired with two Mexican students, and she said she enjoyed the experience, acting as interpreter for other non-Spanish-speaking researchers.

Although the setup had initial technical setbacks, the group eventually got set up, and were able to survey early in the morning. Unfortunately, because of weather conditions, many groups collected data but never verified if they were on the right site because they couldn't see enough stars.

"This is the kind of science where you can control the equipment and setup, but the weather is out of your control... It's just part of the chance of the science, but do it enough times and you can collect accurate information," said Givot.

Despite this setback, the teams managed to collect some viable information on Polymele's shadow. The Project Lucy team is currently planning to survey an additional occultation on August 11 with over a hundred telescopes.

Principal Analyst of the Southwest Research Institute Bryan Keeney said it was likely that some SHS Astronomy Club students would be able to attend this Patroclus occultation.

"After taking six students to Las Vegas in 2021, this new chance brings an opportunity to the newer generations," Givot said.


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