Students Reach for the HI STARs

The recent Mini HI STAR (Hawaii Student/Teacher Research) Program of the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy, IfA, was sponsored by Maui Economic Development Board and Air Force Research Laboratory. The program provided 11 high school students from Maui and Molokai with four days of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. The IFA curriculum gave these students the necessary research skills and background to conduct original research projects.


Dr. JD Armstrong, Maui Technology Education and Outreach Specialist at IFA, and teachers, led the students in morning physics and astronomy lectures. Afternoon sessions included the measurement of the positions and brightness of objects in space using image processing and photometric techniques. “We delivered the basic content in talks with PowerPoint® slides that instructed the students on selecting the celestial object they wanted to research for their group presentations,” said Dr. Armstrong. Students observed the sky as it is seen from different parts of the earth remotely via the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network. “Access to world-class research equipment offered the participants live views of outer space beamed straight to their computers,” Dr. Armstrong explained. “They were able to analyze the results of the collected image data by processing images with Astrometrica, a software tool that calculates precise positions of the celestial bodies.”

“The HI STAR program experience has helped broaden my knowledge on various astronomy topics,” said Celeste Jongeneelen, a home-schooled 10th grader. “We got to research exoplanets, asteroids and comets, young stellar objects and double stars!” Jongeneelen’s group presented a talk entitled Photometry Analysis of Two Young Open Star Clusters. Their objective was to identify candidate hydrogen disk stars. “Images of two young open star clusters were taken with red, infrared and H-alpha filters,” she explained. “We did the photometry on these images and made color-color charts. If any outliers showed excess in H-alpha in the charts, those are the potential disk stars. Our results showed a few candidate disk stars,” Jongeneelen added. “However, further analysis is needed to confirm these candidates.”

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