A National Science Foundation video about the RECON project in the western United States is now available online. The video features a clip of Quincy High School student David Hanna commenting on the project from the RECON team’s Gansner Airport data collection site.
“Instead of redoing an experiment, it feels like we’re doing something that’s contributing to science a little more,” Hanna said of the observations and data collection that the students conducted last semester.
High school students and teachers in Quincy, Greenville and Portola, as well as Feather River College students and teachers, are part of the National Science Foundation’s Research and Education Cooperative Occultation Network (RECON).
The project’s aim is to bring together students, teachers and knowledgeable amateur astronomers in communities with dark skies to collect data on Kuiper Belt objects out beyond Neptune.
According to Marc Buie, one of two principal investigators leading the project, occultation occurs when something gets in front of something else.
Using special high-powered telescopes with mounted cameras provided by NSF (and FRC), teams measure the time when starlight disappears and reappears as an object passes in front of it.
The data for a specific Kuiper Belt object (KBO) is recorded at predetermined times and locations. The teams then submit their data, which is aggregated and analyzed by project leaders.
The Kuiper Belt is a ring of icy debris that litters the solar system out beyond Neptune. Pluto was the first object identified in the Kuiper Belt in 1930. Since 1992, scientists have discovered more than a thousand Kuiper Belt objects and estimate there are more than 100,000 objects larger than 100 kilometers in diameter in the Kuiper Belt.
The RECON project is focusing on “cold classical KBOs.” According to RECON scientists, these objects are in nearly circular orbits around the sun that have likely not been altered since the formation of the solar system, an estimated 4.5 billion years ago.
The project recently celebrated its first birthday. Now in its second year, leaders plan to expand the ranks of its team members from 14 communities to 40. That will allow the project to incorporate occultation data all the way from southern Arizona to northern Washington.
Click photo to see video titled “Young astronomers to investigate the outer solar system!” or visit http://1.usa.gov/1hrXtcy.
For information on the RECON project, go to tnoRECON.net.
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