Fort Worth area students participating in the International Asteroid Search Campaign capture an outstanding image of a galaxy some 37-million light years away. Just a month ago, Dallas area students participating in the same Hardin-Simmons University-based sky watch program discovered a virtual Earth impactor.
IASC is an Internet-based space-watching program for high school and college classes around the world directed by Hardin-Simmons professor Dr. Patrick Miller. The objective of the search campaign is really two-fold: to keep an eye out for objects in space that could be potentially dangerous to Earth, and to prepare young scientist for future endeavors.
Under the guidance of their teachers, students analyze images with free software tools, searching for new asteroids and confirmations of near-Earth objects.
A student from the Colleyville Heritage High School “captured an outstanding image yesterday morning of the Whirlpool Galaxy,” says Miller. “The Colleyville students have been actively measuring images from two telescopes that take images of deep-space objects from ground-based locations in Hawaii and Australia.” The telescopes are directly controllable over the Internet.
Dr. Miller says the Colleyville students are participating in one of two concurrent IASC campaigns. The Faulkes Telescope Campaign pairs five schools from the United States and five schools from the United Kingdom who use the telescopes in the northern and southern hemispheres to take deep-space images.
Colleyville astronomy teacher Leslie Howell says, “Our most recent observation was of an asteroid identified by students Dylan Adams, Cole Stuart, Michelle Warnock, and Remi Dimarco. Fortunately, this asteroid is not a threat to Earth, but the objective of the program is to track asteroids and locate new ones that could be on a collision course with Earth.”
Meanwhile, students in the other ISAC program found exactly that—a virtual Earth impactor. Using telescopes in other locations across the United States, students in Europe and the U.S. have reported five new Main Belt Asteroid discoveries. One of the discoveries is a virtual Earth impactor, which means it has an orbit that poses a potential impact hazard to the Earth. This discovery was made on March 24 by students at the Jesuit College Preparatory School in Dallas.
Student discoveries are reported to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which gives the students published recognition.
The six-week sky-watching campaign involving seven countries on five continents began on March 8 and concludes on May 7. Two new campaigns are set to run simultaneously on two continents next month. The All-Africa Asteroid Search Campaign and the All-India Search Campaign will start on May 17. Students will continue to track all of the near-Earth objects while keeping an eye out for any new objects.
Miller says, “This year 36 new Main Belt asteroids and 197 near-Earth objects have been confirmed by the students participating in the HSU-based program.” Miller started the International Asteroid Search Collaboration in 2006 with just five participating schools. IASC new serves nearly 250 schools per year from 25 countries with students noting over 1,700 near-Earth object observations.
Hardin-Simmons University, founded in 1891 in Abilene, Texas, is a fully accredited church-related Master’s (comprehensive) University, affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas since 1941 and offers excellence in education enlightened by Christian faith and values. HSU offers seven undergraduate degrees with 70 majors and seven graduate degrees with 18 programs. Pre-professional programs include dentistry, engineering, medicine, law, pharmacy, seminary, and a Doctorate in Physical Therapy.