Physics students attend radio astronomy workshop

A group shot of workshop attendees from ETSU

JOHNSON CITY (March 25, 2015) – Fourteen East Tennessee State University students recently attended a workshop on radio astronomy at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) in Brevard, N.C.

During the workshop, they learned how to use a radio telescope and made astronomical observations at radio frequencies of a variety of objects, including radio galaxies, supernova remnants, quasars, the plane of the Milky Way galaxy and the sun.

“Because Earth’s atmosphere is transparent to most radio waves, radio astronomy can be done from the surface of the Earth, like visible-light astronomy, but unlike X-ray, ultraviolet or gamma ray astronomy,” explained Dr. Beverly Smith, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in ETSU’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Following the workshop, the college students now are visiting local high school classes to share their experiences in this program, an effort funded by a grant from the Physics Teachers’ Education Coalition, which is supported by the American Physical Society and the National Science Foundation.  Additional funding is provided by the Learning Experience in Astronomy and Physics Scholarship fund through the ETSU Foundation.

“One of the goals of this program is to provide our students with additional outside-the-classroom, hands-on laboratory experiences,” said Smith, principal investigator of the grant. 

ETSU physics majors who participated in the workshop at PARI were: Elizabeth Williams, Alcoa; Susan Olmsted, Bristol; Dalton Cody Hunley, Church Hill; Tulsi Amin, David Baldwin, Andrew Boghozian, Bryan Matthew Cannon, David Frost, Hannah Greene and Benjamin Tyler McKinney, all of Johnson City; Ashton Morelock, Jonesborough; Austin Patrick, Telford; Holden Dingus, Clintwood, Va.; and William Asbury, Wytheville, Va.

The astronomy program within ETSU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy boasts a faculty of five Ph.D. astronomers.  In addition to the on-campus Harry D. Powell Observatory, ETSU astronomers have access to three other visible-light telescopes around the world as part of the department’s membership in the Southeastern Association in Research in Astronomy.

ETSU recently started an academic minor in astronomy for undergraduates, which includes courses in “Extragalactic Astronomy,” “Variable Stars,” “Astrophysics” and a new course, “Women in Astronomy.”

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