2008 - PJAS state meeting astronomy projects

Grades 7-8:

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, I Wonder if True North You Are
Wesley Strickland (Penn View Christian School)

Project Description:

Suppose you were lost in Pennsylvania and needed to find your way North. All you have to help guide you are a compass and Polaris, the North Star. I was trying to find out which would be more accurate. I hypothesized that Polaris would be a more accurate guide to True North than a compass. To begin my project, I bought a Topographic Map of Southeastern Pennsylvania to find the Magnetic North Declination. Then, I took star trail photographs of Polaris over a period of 6 months. Since all stars in the Northern Hemisphere rotate around the earth~Rs northern axis, the center of Polaris~R completed star trail is True North. I measured from this point, to the Polaris star trail , which told me how many degrees away from True North Polaris actually was. When I completed this for all the photographs, I averaged my data together and I found that Polaris was approximately 6 degrees away from True North, while the compass was 12. Therefore, I found Polaris to be a more accurate guide to True North than a compass, in the Southeastern Pennsylvania region.

Grades 9-12:

How the Size of Asteroid Affects the Speed of its Rotation
Nicole Melso (Springfield High School)

Project Description:

The title of my project was How the Size of an Asteroid Affects the Speed of Its Rotation, and I hypothesized that the smaller the diameter of an Asteroid the shorter its rotation period would be. I choose four m-type asteroids (322 Phaeo, 509 Iolanda, 651 Antikleia, and 2209 Tianjin) with different diameter sizes, and monitored them using a Global Rent-A-Scope CCD telescope over the Internet. I monitored each asteroid on three different dates for 2 hours each date, and received three sets of photometry images for each asteroid. I then sorted all of my images into different folders and used Minor Planet Observer Canopus Software to organize these images and turn my data into Light Curves. A Light Curve is a graph of light intensity over a period of time, and I used these light curves to estimate the rotation periods for each of my four asteroids. In conclusion I found that my hypothesis was proven correct and that the smaller the size of an asteroids diameter the shorter its rotation period.

The Evolution of Galaxies
Robyn Smith (Christopher Dock Mennonite High School)

Project Description:

The purpose of my project was to find a trend in the formation and evolution of spiral and elliptical galaxies. I hypothesized that at the beginning of the universe, the percent of spiral galaxies would be greater than at present and that the percentage of spiral galaxies has been declining since the formation of the universe.

For my project, I used a computer, calculator, and data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. I randomly chose fifty galaxies of different redshifts and classified them based on three or four different factors. I then made one final graph summarizing my data and depicting the trend of galaxy evolution throughout the life of universe going back 10 billion years.

In conclusion, my hypothesis is supported because, after removing the unreliable data, the percent of spiral galaxies was greater towards the beginning of the universe and that percentage has been decreasing ever since. My data was severely limited and biased at some points, and this negatively affected my final analysis. However, after determining at what point my data was mostly unreliable (a redshift greater than 2.000), it was removed so that it would not completely affect my conclusion. As an extension I could create a much more comprehensive and accurate model of the more recent activities of the universe. This project is practical because humans constantly wonder where they came from, and understanding how the universe formed is a step in that direction.