Astronomy Club (High School)

Compass has a high school Astronomy Club! One of the key missions of the club is to explore pulsar science and radio astronomy by conducting original research and scientific analysis on data collected by the Green Bank Telescope as a PSC Team! Club members may also choose to attend astronomy lectures, exhibits, participate in area telescope events, or view astronomy-related films as a group.

About PSC
Did you know that the world’s largest, fully steerable radio telescope, the Green Bank Telescope (GBT), is nearby in Green Bank, WV? Because of its sensitivity, this 100 meter dish is very important to the scientific community. In the last twelve years, 165 Terabytes of data have been collected by the GBT for the purpose of discovering new pulsars. The Pulsar Search Collaboratory (PSC) is a unique program which allows high school students to conduct authentic scientific research towards discovering new pulsars! Student PSC teams join an international community of scientists who analyze GBT data and conduct original research in pulsar astronomy. (Pulsars are rapidly spinning, highly magnetized neutron stars whose study has shaped the world’s understanding of astrophysics!) The PSC is collaboration between the Green Bank Observatory (formerly the National Radio Astronomy Observatory) and West Virginia University’s Center for Astrophysics that is funded by a National Science Foundation grant.

Student teams analyze new sets of data collected by the GBT. This data has been set aside specifically for PSC student projects, so it has not even been viewed by scientists! Teens will learn how to identify previously unknown pulsars and how to recognize and classify changes in known pulsars. PSC Teams that make significant scientific discoveries may choose to publish academic papers on their findings. Former PSC students discovered new pulsars and became published authors, before even graduating from high school.

PSC teams may be invited to an all-expenses-paid weekend Capstone seminar at WVU in May, where they can present their findings, interact with leading researchers, discuss their work with both scientists and other students, attend lectures, and learn to prepare a professional research poster. PSC members can also apply to attend a week-long extended summer research experience at the GBT. Students who commit to the project for two years can earn 3-6 college credit hours through their work.

For more information on student work through the Pulsar Search Collaboratory, see the documentary, “Little Green Men.”

The club will be student-led and facilitated by a parent advisor who has gone through PSC training. No previous knowledge of pulsar data is necessary, just an interest in space and a commitment to diligent collaboration as a team. Students will participate in a series of online training classes taught by pulsar scientists, graduate students, and educators on the PSC staff. The online training will be completed during club meetings, and there will be some minor offline ‘homework’ before student team members are granted access to the data. Students may be asked to bring a laptop to some meetings.

Other Activities
The club may also elect to participate in other astronomy-focused activities such as a tour of the Green Bank Radio Observatory, Smithsonian lectures, public telescope nights, or movie viewing. Any field trips or extra activities selected by the group will be pay-as-you-go.

Club members must be homeschooled high school students from the metro DC area. Mature 8th graders are welcome to participate in the club, however all members must be minimum age 13 per PSC guidelines. Members do not have to be current Compass students, however, non-Compass students may be asked to provide evidence of good standing as homeschoolers with their county’s current year acknowledgement/receipt of Notice of Intent and Evidence of Progress.

Meeting Schedule
The team will meet on Wednesdays from 4:00pm- 5:00pm starting October 9. In addition to regular weekly meetings, team members will vote on other, outside activities and field trips that they would like to take together.

All members must sign-up for the Astronomy Club online through the Compass Store. There is no cost for current, registered Compass students to register. There is a $20.00 activity/facility fee for non-Compass students.