2004 - PJAS Astronomy Award Winners
Andrea Appel (John F. Kennedy MS)
The hypothesis chosen for this project was that it will be
possible to collect cosmic rays by using a home-made cloud
chamber. This hypothesis was based on an interview, over
the phone and Internet, with a scientist at Penn State. A
three-page research paper was written prior to beginning
this project. Materials were gathered. A clear, custom-made
container, with no top, and a retaining box were created to
collect the cosmic rays. Cut black felt to the exact
dimensions of the container and about 2.5 cm in height and
soak it in isopropyl alcohol. Cut a sheet of metal so that
it is able to sit on top of the container, like a lid, and
cover one side with black electrical tape. Crush the dry
ice and lay it in the bottom of the retaining box. Spread
a thin layer of the alcohol on the tape side of the metal.
Set container on tape side of metal and check for any air
leaks. Place chamber in front of slide projector and begin
observing. The hypothesis was proved correct; it was possible
to collect cosmic rays.
How Does Light Pollution Affect Star Count?
Kristen Brotherson (Villa Maria School)
My research centered on light pollution's effect on one's ability to
visualize the night sky. Through digital photography and star
quantification at varying distances from the city of Erie's center, I
was able to establish a direct relationship between the number of
stars visible in a night sky and the distance form the center of Erie.
The results were somewhat expected but very dramatic. The results
also stimulated the concept of a star visibility index, which I
proposed in my project. I feel that anyone buying real-estate should
have an understanding of the light pollution of that specific property
and one's relative ability to visualize the night sky. The SVI (Star
Visibility Index) would tell the person the percent of stars they
could see in the night sky compared to how many they could see if
there were no light pollution.
The Retrograde Motion of Mars
Nishi Dedania (Moravian Academy)
I did my presentation on the retrograde motion of Mars which has
been proved many times before, but I used my own data to prove this
to myself. As the Earth passed Mars in its orbit, I took pictures
of Mars against the backdrop of the stars in the constellation Aquarius
with my regular camera. When I decided to do this project, the
retrograde motion of Mars had already begun, but I started taking
pictures that night so that I would at least get the last curve, and
that is what I eventually got. I took black and white photos, so
I used ASA400 film. I developed the film and created prints in the
darkroom by myself. Then I identified the stars on each of my prints,
looking for several stars that were on all or most of my pictures.
Once I had my reference stars, I used mathematical ratios to create
another sheet with the position of Mars for each picture I had, and
it was easy to see how Mars had moved in a curve. I also learned
several things that would help me with the project if I were to do
it again, such as: use more light-sensitive film, possibly use a
digital camera and overlap the pictures in Adobe Photoshop, and
start when the retrograde motion begins! I learned all this and more
with this project because I got to learn about a subject, astronomy,
which I cannot study in school.
AKR; Auroral Kilometric Radiation
Katie Pazamickas (Lourdes Regional)
AKR is a naturally occurring radio emission associated with the release of
energy during space weather. It has a wavelength of about 1 km and a
frequency range of 30-500 kHz and is generated by high-energy particles
streaming toward Earth, along magnetic field lines. Its generating mechanism
is inefficient and can only convert ~ 0.1% of the total electron energy into
radio wave power; the rest is dumped into the aurora.
1. Is there a connection between the generation of low-frequency AKR and
the structure of the nightside aurora?
2. What is the low-frequency limit of AKR?
3. What is the structure of the nightside aurora during these low-frequency
Hypothesis: Low-frequency AKR emissions, below 30 kHz, will produce unique
structures in the nightside auroral oval that can be detected optically.
The method used to test my hypothesis was to integrate data from 2 science
instruments onboard the IMAGE spacecraft. By integrating radio-frequency
data from RPI spectrograms and WIC images of the global auroral oval, I was
able to identify unique auroral structures that developed over the time
period of the AKR emission.
The results of this experiment confirm that low-frequency AKR emissions
occur infrequently. They comprise just 2.3% of the 1209 spectrograms
evaluated spanning a 44-month period. Of those 28 confirmed low-frequency
AKR emissions, a bifurcation or split in the aurora was seen 100% of the
time. The bifurcation was seen in the dusk and midnight sectors of the
auroral oval, which is where you would normally expect to see effects of
AKR emissions. Low-frequency AKR emissions can range from 6-300 kHz as
measured on the RPI spectrograms.
Since the early 1970s, the scientific community has accepted that AKR
emissions primarily had a low-frequency limit of 30 kHz. This experiment
has found evidence that AKR emissions can extend down to 6 kHz, which is
indicative of a source region location much further back in the magnetotail
and may have an impact on the generating mechanism surrounding AKR emissions
that is not yet understood. That the bifurcation or split in the aurora was
seen in every case where confirmed low-frequency AKR emissions reached 30
kHz or lower, suggests strong preliminary evidence of a direct correlation
between wave and a particle phenomena. However, before the two can be
linked scientifically, evidence that a bifurcation in the aurora occurs
ONLY in the presence of low-frequency AKR must be found. This will require
additional research on the data and is currently under investigation.