During September, The Star Hunt has started at the participating schools, which are spread all over the country. 32 teachers and up to 1500 school children from 67 classes learn about astronomy and get to participate in a real research project. The students involved are in the eighth and ninth grades and they will get help from several Chalmers astronomers.
The researchers Dr. Giuliana Cosentino, Dr. Rubén Fedriani and Professor Jonathan Tan from Chalmers' Department of Space, Earth and Environment participate in this year's version of Help a Scientist. It is not only an exciting school project, but the students' results will be helpful to the researchers in their work.
“Students will analyse images taken in a variety of wavelengths of light, from radio to x-ray, by telescopes in space, in the air and on the ground. The goal is to contribute new knowledge about the birth of stars and in the long run increase the understanding of our galaxy and our own origin”, says Jonathan Tan.
Image analysis in collaboration with NASA
What the students will help the researchers with is to identify new stars that are born from interstellar clouds and answer the questions if these stars form alone, as twins or clustered together in great broods?
The images the pupils will analyse will be provided by the web-based WorldWide Telescope platform, which interfaces with NASA databases.
“We have worked with developers of this software specially for the Star Hunt project to upload some of our research datasets for the students to analyze. The students will be able to see for themselves how stars are forming in our galaxy by examining these images and cross matching them against a wide variety of other data available at the platform”, says Jonathan Tan.
Pilot exercises in the Gothenburg area
Earlier this year, pilot exercises were arranged at two different schools in the Gothenburg region, at Torslandaskolan and Torpskolan in Lerum.
“We met the classes and gave a lecture on the formation of stars and how astronomers make observations with telescopes. Then we worked together on a research exercise. The test rounds were great for us; we have been able to develop the tasks and the tools based on the feedback we received from the students”, says Jonathan Tan.
In addition to giving lectures for students, the researchers have worked hard to produce an 80-page booklet which explains the exercises. The document also contains an introduction to the subject of astronomy and to the research group's main focus, star formation.
The researchers have also had a digital start-up conference with about thirty teachers and later this autumn, digital class visits will be done online.
Scientific level, creativity and design are awarded
Since the goal of Help a Scientist is to let the students experience a researcher's reality, they will also have to work on presenting their studies by making scientific posters that demonstrate the research process and the results from The Star Hunt. The posters are a part of a competition where different prizes are given based on science, creativity and design.
Each category has different jury groups consisting of researchers, science journalists and the pupils themselves. Students can win grants for their class funds and study visits to Chalmers where they get to meet prominent researchers.
The winners will be presented in February 2021, hopefully at a ceremony at the Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm.
Text: Julia Jansson