2009 - PJAS state meeting astronomy projects

Grades 9-12:

A Study of Quiescent Flicker Behavior in a Dwarf Nova
Nicole Melso (Springfield High School)

Project Description:

The purpose of my project was to discover and identify possible precursors to variable star outbursts. I monitored dwarf nova SS Cygni and hypothesised that, as SS Cygni got closer to outburst, I would see significant changes in its flicker behavior both the time and frequency domain. I monitored SS Cygni and recieved 4 sets of data in the form of Photomoetry imgages. I then analyzed these images using the programs Photometrica and Peranso. After my analysis my hypothesis was proven correct. Before outburst there was both a large increase in the magnitude and the frequency of my data. My results led me to believe that these indicators could be signs that an outburst is about to begin. Knowing these precursors could be helpful to astronomers who are looking to catch a variable star outburst at its beginning.

The Feasibility of a Solar Pond as an Energy Source for Individual Homes
Elizabeth Marie Weiner (West Perry High School)

Project Description:

Solar ponds are created by layering water solutions with different salinities, and thus different densities, in a pond. These solutions do not mix with each other due to their different densities. Because the solutions stay separate, the layers also limit convection currents. This causes the saltiest layer at the bottom of the pond, the brine, to reach very high temperatures. This heat can then be converted to electricity, or it can simply used as heat. Knowing that solar ponds have been used successfully as energy sources for large, industrial areas, I hypothesized that a smaller back-yard sized solar pond could be used as a secondary energy source for individual homes. To test this hypothesis, I built a solar pond prototype in my yard by digging a hole that was 1 meter by 1 meter and 61 cm (2 feet) deep. I then lined this hole with black rubber pond liner and then mixed my saline solutions in my cellar using water and Instant Ocean salt water fish tank mix. The bottom layer was mixed to be four times saltier than a regular oceans salinity, the middle layer was the salinity of a regular ocean, and the top layer was fresh water. Once the pond was set up, I used a thermocouple to take temperature readings of the air outside, the top layer, middle layer, and the bottom layer. I took these readings twice a day and recorded the data into a lab notebook for approximately three weeks. After analyzing the data, it was apparent that the layers of the pond did remain at different temperatures and that the bottom layer was almost always the hottest layer. Thus, the principle that different densities limit convection currents proved to remain true for both large and small solar ponds. I plan on making some modifications to my current solar pond prototype and then continuing my experiment to make calculations on how much heat energy can be derived from the pond year round. Overall, I do believe that a back-yard solar pond has potential to be an alternative source of energy for individual homes.

Distribution of Irregular Satellite Galaxies: Holmberg Effect
Robyn Smith (Christopher Dock Mennonite High School)

Project Description: