While many students prefer to relax during the summer holidays, Pranav Kalra, now in Grade 12 at KIS International School, spent his vacation in a Summer Science Program at the University of Colorado, studying asteroids.
The students followed lectures during the daytime and at night they observed asteroids using telescopes at the Sommers Bausch Observatory. They tracked and measured asteroids, then calculated their orbit using a computer program they made. Their findings will be included in the data from the Minor Planet Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Here is Pranav’s experience in his own words:
“The only thing that interrupted the intense physics-based programming homework I needed to complete this summer was clear skies. Clear skies meant there was a chance we could observe our asteroid.
This summer, I had a chance to attend the 57th Summer Science Program in Boulder, Colorado. It was a 6-week long program with 35 other students and we stayed at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The main project was to track an asteroid using a telescope and use our observations to determine the shape of the asteroid’s orbit around the sun. However, this problem is just as hard as it sounds, and we had to learn a lot of physics, math, and programming before we got to a stage where we could solve this problem. We worked in teams of 3 for observation and for parts of the final project as well.
During the program, we also had many field trips and guest speakers. I saw one of the latest generations of atomic clocks, parts from past NASA rocket launches, and the room that monitors space weather. I listened to and interacted with people in charge of instruments aboard the Pluto New Horizons Mission and the Curiosity rover on Mars and with a Nobel Prize winner; Eric Cornell. I got to spend time with and get to know a really unique group of individuals, both students and faculty, and it was an experience that will leave a mark in my life.
Ultimately my team and I were able to find our asteroid, and our data was the most accurate when compared to published data. More importantly so, I had a great experience and made some very close friends. Most people dream of being among the stars, but I was able to see what moved among them, and find our importance in our dreams thusly.”