Carson High School students are receiving national attention for the work they’ve done over the past six months as part of a citizen science research project exploring the outer solar system.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” said Jared Akers, 17. “Being a teenager, a lot of people focus on popularity instead of experiences. It makes you feel, maybe not grown-up, but like you have a sense of maturity.”
A crew from the National Science Foundation was in Jim Bean’s astronomy class Wednesday getting footage for a short film as part of its online magazine, Science Nation, which examines breakthroughs and discoveries in science.
The film will focus on Project RECON, Research and Education Cooperative Occultation Network, in which Carson High School students joined residents in Carson City and 12 other towns stretching from Tulelake, Calif., to Tonopah, to help scientists study Kuiper belt objects — large, frozen bodies that orbit the sun beyond Neptune.
“Understanding KBOs will help us better understand the very first days of our solar system,” explained professor John Keller of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, who is leading the project, along with Marc Buie of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. “These objects haven’t been changed significantly for more than 4.5 billion years.”
Crews filmed the students recording data from observations made in Bishop, Calif., when the asteroid Comacina passed in front of a star.
“It’s very exciting to have the National Science Foundation here,” Bean said. “This is good recognition for the students and for the high school staff here. These are really sharp kids.”
The students will participate in 10 coordinated observations over the next 18 months to track shadows of KBOs and asteroids that pass between Earth and a given star, an astronomical event called an occultation.
“It’s pretty fun just learning about this,” said Travis Summers, 17. “It’s something out there and we’re seeing it happen here in real time.”