WNCâ€™s Jack C. Davis Observatory made the difference this summer for two Carson High School students. Shelby Brown and Lake Shank, soon-to-be seniors, earned the chance to participate in real science research at an
Arizona observatory this spring, thanks in large measure to their affiliation with WNC.
In addition to Saturday evening stargazing and frequent free lectures for the public, WNC observatory director Robert Collier has welcomed high school and college students who wish to learn at the observatory on the Carson City campus. Brown and Shankâ€™s interest in science and astronomy, coupled with their mentorsâ€™ affiliations, helped lead the students to the on-site research opportunity.
Brown and Shank spent several days working with scientists at Kitt Peak National Observatory, southwest of Tucson, Ariz., to collect data dealing with the size of asteroids in the Kuiper Belt, the solar system between the orbit of Neptune and the sun.
Collier said that participation in this federal project materialized from the training the participants received at the Davis Observatory.
â€œIf WNC had no observatory, the opportunity afforded students and my staff would not have been possible,â€ he said. â€œThe observatory staff members have taught and mentored the students to the point that they were recognized for their competence and skills level by Marc Buie, the principal investigator doing research on RECON.â€
The students were accompanied to Kitt Peak by avid local astronomer Red Sumner and Carson High physics/astronomy instructor Jim Bean, joining other students and amateur astronomers from around the West.
â€œThey got a firsthand, authentic experience, “a real astronomical experience”on Kuiper Belt objects to help with the study theory on solar system formation,â€ said Bean, a member of the Board of Governors at the Davis Observatory.
Collier is excited about the impact that the research project could have on future students.
â€œThis sort of activity could act as a catalyst for students trying to make decisions to get involved in STEM and science in general,â€ he said.