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Reaching for the stars

Students present their astronomy research to the pros

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For the second year in a row, Carmel’s Astronomy Research class traveled to Dallas to present new research at the American Astronomical Society meeting, rubbing elbows with professional astronomers, NASA scientists and even a Nobel laureate.

The group consisted of seniors Sammy Dickmann, Annie Hart, Tommy Lacher, Jack McKernan, Brandi Ropinski and junior Theresa Thiel, under the watchful eye of astronomy teacher, NASA-trained Marcella Linahan.

Along with taking in cutting-edge astronomy research, the students got to show off what they’ve been working on all year

“At that very time, we were the world experts on the research that we did,” senior Tommy Lacher said.

Not only did they explain what they had learned about young stellar objects in the Elephant Trunk Nebula, but they defended their findings.

“It’s a little nerve-racking,” senior Sammy Dickmann said. “Here are professionals or college students asking you questions, and you’re just a high-schooler.”

While rubbing elbows with the professionals was exciting, the group also chatted with Dr. John Mather, who developed the Big Bang Theory. Contrary to what many high school students believe, it’s not just a CBS television hit.

“I got to listen to a lot of people I grew up listening to talk in person, and it’s almost equalizing,” senior Brandi Ropinski said.

The networking opportunities were almost as important as the presentation because the group got to speak with undergraduate and graduate students from potential colleges and talk to organizations that they might want to work for one day.

“You get more personal accounts from the people there,” Ropinski said.

The real-world experience helps the students realise that what they are doing in the classroom matters.

“I think it’s some really great experience for what real life is like and what real life research and work is like,” Lacher said.

But their research hasn’t stopped there, soon they’re planning on exploring for more young stars.

“Of those 300 stars, approximately 29% were considered good candidates,” Astronomy teacher Marcella Linahan said. “Future research will include an analysis of an additional 400+ stars in the region.”

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