Week 4

Cluster 7’s final week at COSMOS was full of preparation.  The beginning of the week saw us finishing up our scientific posters for printing.  To do this we projected each poster and evaluated what we saw, checking each section for content and overall look.  The students took the constructive criticism notes from the all of the advisors and incorporated them into their poster.  We did this process again in the afternoon before the student teams turned in their final pdf posters.  Once the posters were finished and emailed, we concentrated on our presentations.  We presented our second iteration and then each group sat down with the advisors to take notes on both the research and the presentation style itself.  We listened to a last lecture on extraterrestrial intelligence and had an open question and answer session on careers and academic paths in astronomy and astrophysics.  The end of the week allowed us to have one last practice presentation to fine tune before Friday.  We presented Friday morning and each group sounded like experts.  The student’s spoke eloquently and fluently from memory and fielded questions easily.  Their presentations were truly amazing.  My favorite word of the week is luminous.  Exactly what these young people are, luminous!  It has been a pleasure sharing this experience with them.  Cluster 7, in your face from outer space! 

Week 3

This week the student groups really dug into their projects.  The students are making headway on their research, working on graphing and analyzing their data, writing captions for their figures and organizing their research into their narrative.  Everyone is engaged and asking great questions.  Bruce took each group on a mini field trip to look at and evaluate different research posters on the walls in the building.  Students are integrating this into their own posters and presentations.  The groups are working on shared documents where they can each contribute in real time.  On Thursday night, Raja surprised the students at study hall and helped them with their presentations.  Today we are going to do our first presentation iteration as we prepare for next week.  Below is another student's thoughts on our remote observing:  

Remote observing was definitely one of the coolest things I've done. The cluster had separated into our five different projects, and each project looked at two objects that were relevant to their research. My project is on the star formation rate and chemical composition of distant galaxies, and so we looked at two galaxies (Messier 101 and UGC 10214, which is also known as the Tadpole galaxy). We had to find the right ascension and the declination of both our objects as a group, which is essentially the sky coordinates. Then we put those coordinates into a computer from the UCSC campus, and the telescope we were controlling at the Lick Observatory moved where we told it to. We took three different pictures of each of our objects, each picture with a different filter. The next day we compiled all three filters together to create an amazing final image. It really felt like I was doing something relevant to actual science, and even though it was almost 1 AM, I felt great.” ~ Zoe M

We were also lucky enough to see the International Space Station fly overhead on Wednesday night at 9:34pm.  Ask your student to tell you about it and how to catch the next visible pass. 

Week 2:

During week two our students really dove into their group projects and were deep in data.  On Monday night we were able to remote observe using the Nickel telescope at Lick Observatory with the resident astronomer controlling the telescope.  Below are student reflections and group status updates.  Go cluster 7… in your face from outer space!

“Overall, remote observing was an insightful experience that helped me experience what it's like to be an astronomer. It was eye-opening to be involved in the process of taking multiple exposures and configuring the telescope. We had the opportunity to research our own objects of interest - the Sunflower Galaxy and Firework Galaxy - and find the coordinates we needed to enter into the navigation system to find the galaxies. We also learned more about exposures and what each one looks at. Additionally, the professors also told us about potential problems and complications astronomers face when taking exposures to analyze. Thus, remote observing helped build upon our previous experience of visiting Lick Observatory and helped complete the cycle of astronomical observing.” ~ Sharvani J.

“By today, we should be almost finished gathering all the information we need from the tabletop experiments.  In particular, we are trying to create a binary system with the tabletop that replicates the actual light curve produced by the binary star SZ Her.  We are still researching the different binary stars that exist and what information can be deducted from their light curves.  After we finish the table top experiments, we will begin using the online simulator to construct more binary systems with stars and planets.”  ~ Sam C. Group 1

“So far we have graphed the hubble data for M80, and now need to find the isochrome for it. We will do that by taking two very different isochromes and eventually narrowing them down till we find the correct one.Then we will apply said isochrome to the graph we made of M80.” ~ Chloe B. Group 2

“We have successfully downloaded all the data from the Hubble Legacy Archive for the M87 and Antennae Galaxy. We have learned about reddening vectors (how they work and how to account for them) and how to interpret a color-color diagram. Right now a team member is working on making a computer program that will take the data we have of the galaxies in different filters and graph all points in the specific way we want.” ~ Hannah H. Group 3

“There are 3 main parts to our project:
    1. Graphing galaxy spectra
    2. Finding emission line wavelength and flux
    3. Graphing data and drawing conclusions

We finished the first step and we are working on the second part. For our project, we need to determine the distance to the galaxy, star formation rate, metallicity, and absolute magnitude. We made an Excel spreadsheet that can calculate all of the above once we enter the emission line wavelength and flux. Once we get our data, we can graph it and draw conclusions. After this, we will work on our PPT and poster. We have completed around 60% of our project, as we are almost done with the tedious stuff.” ~ Kevin C. Group 4

“Currently we don't have any real problems except finding rotation curves. Tiffany is currently working on an algorithm through JavaScript to work out the distance to the galaxy from the redshifts. Albert is currently finding redshifts of H-beta 0III OIII. We now need to find the masses of galaxies and with the mass, we can calculate the dark matter content of the galaxies.” ~ Christian S. Group 5

Week 1

Our first week in Astrophysics took us up to the tallest mountain in the Bay Area to look though the 36 inch great refractor telescope at Lick Observatory. The resident astronomer gave us a guided tour of the telescopes in the town and we "rode the dome" of the 120 inch telescope! We watched the sunset before learning about James Lick and how all the telescopes survived the 365 switchbacks in the road. In class, we are exploring topics from supernovae to gravitational waves. The students selected their research projects and found the coordinates of what they will remote observe on Monday night with the one meter Nickel telescope.


Click here for photos!