Starstudded final event for Help A Scientist

​​In the Star Hunt project, 1,400 school students have helped researchers at Chalmers University of Technology to gather new knowledge about how stars are born. On 12 February, the project ended with a digital event where the students' great scientific results were presented - and where they got to meet Nobel Laureate Reinhard Genzel and Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang.
The Star Hunt is the tenth edition of Help A Scientist, an annual project where the Nobel Prize Museum connects school classes around the country with researchers at Swedish universities. The students who participated in the Star Hunt have analyzed details in infrared images from space and marked where there may be dust and particles that are about to form new stars. This has been a great help to the Chalmers astronomers , who can spend more time investigating what the dust clouds contain to increase knowledge about how stars are formed.

The three participating astronomers from Chalmers' department of Space, Earth and Environment - Jonathan Tan, Giuliana Cosentino and Rubén Fedriani are all happy with the results and their participation in the project:

– I was very impressed by the amount of results we got back from the students. They performed a very meticulous work and was committed during the whole project, says Giuliana Cosentino, Chalmers. 

– I had great expectations for the project, but the level of commitment shown by the students really exceeded them. The interest shown during the school virtual visits, the questions that the students felt comfortable to ask us directly via email, all this gave me a sense of appreciation for my and my colleagues’ work that is by far the greatest results and reward, says Giuliana Cosentino.

Dark streaks and bright bubbles

The students was given access to a tool called World Wide Telescope, and asked to perform two different tasks. In the first part they were mapping dark streaks, or filaments, and bright structures, "bubbles", in molecular clouds in different star forming regions. The dark filaments are the birth place of many stars and the idea was to answer how and where these filaments arise, and how the bright bubbles are affecting them. 
The students mapped 6 000 filaments and 200 bubbles, and contributed greatly to the understanding of these phenomenon. 

In the second task the students were asked to map the stars surrounding massive stars, to test theories about how the massive stars are formed - on their own or if they are influenced by surrounding stars. All in all, 140 000 stars were mapped by the students in the excercise! And the accuracy of their star maps proved to be greater than the previous computerized attempts. 

The astronomers will now follow up, analyze and work on the results, and the plan is to showcase the results in at least one coming research paper. 

Important to work with school students​

– Our research group has a long-standing interest in involving relatively early stage students in research. For example, for the last several years we have been running summer undergraduate research projects at Chalmers. As a result of this work, we were informed about the possibility to work with school students via the Nobel Prize Museum Help a Scientist program - it seemed like an unique and fun opportunity - so we applied, says Jonathan Tan, Chalmers. 

– These students are important to work with, since this is an age when they can be making choices about their future careers. We want to give them some experience of scientific research and hope that some will follow such a career path, says Jonathan Tan.

The students also sent in 160 poster, describing their results. Among them Jonathan, Giuliana and Rubén chose a winning team from class 8B in Carlssons skola, Stockholm, who will get to come to Chalmers and Onsala Space Observatory, meet the researchers and learn more about their work. 

– I will definitely remember most the interaction with the students. With their passion, curiosity, and fresh ideas, I was motivated to perform my best for them. I will also remember the stimulating teachers that did a great job and the Nobel Prize Museum Staff that worked behind the scenes to run everything smoothly, says Rubén Fedriani, Chalmers. 

– I have learnt many things from this project. Not only from the scientific point of view but also from the pedagogical one. The students have taught me that every single detail is of great importance and that a single sentence can inspire one to pursue a career in astronomy, says Rubén Fedriani, Chalmers.

Text: Christian Löwhagen. 

Watch the final event of the Star Hunt. (The link will make the Youtube video start at the 37 minute mark, when the students' results are presented by Jonathan, Giuliana och Rubén). 

Page manager Published: Wed 05 May 2021.