2001 - PJAS Astronomy Award Winners

Grades 7-8:

Use of Shadow Length to Measure the Depths of Lunar Craters
Benjamin Ou-Yang (Northeast Middle School)

Project Description:

I performed my experiment on determining the depths of craters on the Moon using the shadow length, Sun angle, and trigonometry. My hypothesis was that a combination of the shadow length, angle of the Sun at the crater, and trigonometry can be used to calculate the lunar crater depth. Trigonometry allows me to use proportions to figure out the actual shadow length from the length on the photograph. I determined the Sun angle at the crater from the location of the terminator, the border that separates the night from the day side on the Moon, and used it in the equation for trigonometry (tan THETA x AB = BC) with THETA as the angle, AB as the shadow length, and BC as the crater depth. I measured the depths of 9 craters. I found the recorded depths of three craters, Eudoxus, Eratosthenes, and Arzachel. I compared the recorded depths to the depths that I found. The only major difference was in the crater Eudoxus. I conclude that my hypothesis was correct because 2 out of the 3 craters measured had similar results.

Micro-Meteorites are Everywhere
Andrew Wise (John F. Kennedy Middle School)

Project Description:

My PJAS project was conducted using micro-meteorites found in rural areas and urban areas. My hypothesis was that micro-meteorites are more numerous in rural areas due to less pollution in the rural areas and because there is more interaction with people in the urban areas. The methods I used were both safe to me and to my surroundings. I collected the micro-meteorites at my grandmother's house in the city of Washington, PA and at my own house in the country in Eighty-Four, PA. My hypothesis was proven correct. On average, there were 88 more micro-meteorites in the rural area.

Grades 9-12:

Detection of Galactic Hydrogen Using a Radio Telescope
Francis Frisina (Bethlehem Center High School)

Project Description:

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the Universe, and at 80% composition it is also a simple form of matter to detect with a radio telescope. In our Galaxy, most matter is centered on the Galactic plane, so it follows that there would be more hydrogen present along the plane than on its edges. Using a radio telescope and a few simple equations, I was able to measure with some degree of accuracy the number of hydrogen atoms in a given scan area. Using scientific methodology I was able to prove my hypothesis correct, as my data clearly showed a greater amount of hydrogen on the Galactic plan than above or below it.

Warm, Early Mars and the Greenhouse Effect: Does CH4 Make the Difference?
Richard Lease (Hazleton Area High School)

Project Description:

Mars' geological record indicates that surface water existed in the past. The research in this study deals with the question, "What climatic conditions on Paleo-Mars made it possible for large amounts of surface water to exist?", specifically asking "Is it possible to have a Martian surface temperature above freezing given a reasonable amount of methane?". Research in the past decade using one-dimensional computer climate modeling strongly points to an atmosphere that consists primarily (but not solely) of carbon dioxide, with the addition of other greenhouse gases. In 1997, James F. Kasting of Penn State University, utilizing reverse calculations, showed that methane is a plausible candidate for Paleo-Martian warming. The computer model employed in this study expands on Kasting's developed FORTRAN code, "Surftem", and attempts to more accurately and more comprehensively account for the greenhouse activity of methane, utilizing forward calculations. It is hypothesized that methane will produce an above freezing (greater than 273 K) surface temperature given a reasonable amount of methane, using Kasting's 1997 results as a premise. The three major portions of the code altered were the reading in of methane absorption and emission coefficients, the addition of methane in the outgoing thermal infrared flux, and the addition of the 8-12 micrometer continuum. The results indicated that an above freezing Paleo-Martian surface temperature resulted with methane mixing ratios of 1 * 10^-3, 1 * 10^-4, and 1 * 10^-5, and an overall atmospheric pressure greater than .07 bars. However, to accept the hypothesis and conclude that methane does indeed produce the needed warming would be premature. Upon a more detailed analysis of the results, discrepancies in the data were found, indicating major computational flaws in the model. Further revising of the code must be completed for valid results.