Locals wanted to participate in scientific study
If you’ve ever wondered if there is anything beyond our solar system, you have a once in a lifetime opportunity to team up with actual scientists and explore the world beyond. Four Lassen County residents have already signed on as a team and they are looking for others with an interest in the great beyond to join them.
Jim Reichle, Rueben Mahnke, Buck Bateson and Kevin Sweeney are science enthusiasts participating in the Research and Education Cooperative Occultation Network (RECON) citizen science research project aimed at exploring the outer solar system.
Funded by the National Science FoundationDivision of Astronomical Sciences, the project involves teachers, students, amateur astronomers and community members from across the Western United States who will conduct coordinated telescope observations to measure the sizes of asteroids in orbits well beyond the planet Saturn.
The project consists of a linked network of 10 telescope sites (and eventually 40 sites), across the western United States. Reichle said ideally each team would have at least 10 people to rotate and train others. Team members would work within the community and collaborate with others in the network to collect astronomical data.
RECON’s goal and mission is to measure the size of trans-Neptunian objects, while making authentic scientific research more accessible to local communities. Determining the sizes of these objects will help scientists better understand the object’s formation and composition, and could reveal a great deal about the origins of our solar system.
To measure the size of an object, volunteers will use the shadow it casts on Earth as the object moves in front of a distant star — an event called an occultation. Making precise measurements of the event from different, nearby locations on Earth, scientists can determine the size of the object.
This is where communities across the Western United States help out. Each community that lies within the network and has a team will receive a telescope and video camera system to use for observation.
Reichle said being given the equipment was like Christmas.
“This is the real deal,” said Reichle.
He hopes to get students involved in the project and eventually start an astronomy club at Lassen High School where he teaches science. He said he has also been talking to interested parties at Lassen Community College about getting a group together.
Reichle said mid-summer is when a big asteroid will be visible, and right now he is learning how to use the new equipment and doing trial runs for the project. The overall study will last for up to 10 years, but there is no specific commitment.
“We will need to train new people as people leave and others join,” said Reichle.
For more information about being trained in the observations or attending star gazing evenings, email Reichle at Jim.Reichle@lassenhigh.org.
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