In late September of last year, a project began within the physics department in collaboration with the Institution of Research in Schools: The James Webb Telescope Cosmic Mining Project (thankfully dubbed ‘Star Seekers’ by Ms Goldsmith). This project saw students from Y10 to Y13, analysing data on stars collected by the soon to be decommissioned Spitzer Telescope. Our findings will be used by astronomers to decide which stars deserve to be observed further by the James Webb Telescope, due to be launched in 2020. It took a little practice and experience with the process to get it down but once you’d become accustomed to reading the monstrous graphs of data, it became super interesting (if peering quite literally into the stars wasn’t interesting enough!).
On Monday 18th, a small group consisting of myself, Caitlin, Ella and Thelma (all Y12) and Ms Goldsmith made our way to the Francis Crick Institute, just by St. Pancras International for the IRIS Anniversary Celebration and Conference. Our mission: let the world know of our successes, discoveries and experiences with the project. Our audience was vast, around 200 people, and well…they were scientists. I’m not too sure how the others felt, but the prospect of going up on stage and explaining a topic to people who have dedicated their careers to it was very daunting in my mind. But then came our time on stage, in the spotlight and we absolutely killed it!
The evening ended with a free roaming session where the guests had an opportunity to visit the individual stands and learn more about the projects. Unfortunately for us, we exited the auditorium to find our stand empty! The enormous A0 posters we had sent in advance had been kept “somewhere safe” within the Francis Crick building, and so we had to spend the first hour without it. Thankfully the issue was resolved and the marvel that was our poster was put on display. It will be viewable in the Physics department soon - come check it out.
Talking to the people in the session was a memorable experience, particularly Nisha Gaind, an editor of the “Nature” science journal who had studied astrophysics at university. Aside from being a charismatic person and fun to talk to, she put our worries about our presentation to rest, telling us that the work we were doing was near university level and that our presentation came across as us not only knowing what we were talking about, which of course was the case, but also that we were adept at making it all understandable to anyone. To hear those words from the mouth of an astrophysicist was reassuring to say the least. We also got to meet Professors from various universities and at the very end we were held back by one enthusiastic visitor who turned out to work for the UK Space Agency. Overall, this was a truly excellent opportunity and one which I both fully enjoyed and would do again with the chance.
More information on the James Webb Telescope Project can be found here.
If you are in Y9-Y13 and want to get involved in this, or other science research, please come and see Ms Goldsmith or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.