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Students Searching for Asteroids; Leader of Program Speaking at CNM March 15

February 3, 2016 -- CNM astronomy students are searching for asteroids in deep space as part of an online outreach program for colleges sponsored by the International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC).
Students Searching for Asteroids; Leader of Program Speaking at CNM March 15

Mar 02, 2016

IASC founder, Dr. Patrick Miller, will be a guest speaker at CNM on March 15 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. on Main Campus in the Student Resource Center, Room 204. He is currently a professor of mathematics at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Tex., where he also teaches astronomy. He has been in the classroom for 40 years, starting in 1973 as a graduate student in mathematics at the University of New Mexico. The talk is free and open to the public.

Miller will be at CNM March 14 and 15, when he will meet with several physics and astronomy classes, visit local scientists and give his presentation.

In 2006 Miller founded and now directs the IASC, which is an online astronomy outreach

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program for high schools and colleges. Each year, students from 500 schools in more than 60 countries make original discoveries of asteroids orbiting Mars and Jupiter.

Asteroids are small, airless rocky worlds revolving around the sun that are too small to be called planets. They are leftovers from the formation of our solar system about 4.5 billion years ago.

Last fall CNM students participated in the IASC asteroid search and found 13 potentially new asteroids, which will ultimately be recognized by the Minor Planet Center at Harvard University and the International Astronomical Union (IAU). CNM students are expected to discover even more when the program resumes again this month.

During times of moonless skies, the Astronomical Research Institute in Charleston, Ill. takes images of asteroids using telescopes. The following morning these images are prepared and made available to participating schools, including CNM. The schools go to a Hardin-Simmons University website where they download the images and use a software package, Astrometrica, to produce a plate solution and identify all of the moving objects. Astrometrica checks to see which of the objects are found within the MPC database. Those objects not found are identified as new discoveries by students

CNM astronomy instructor Alina Gabryszewska-Kukawa says that when students search for new asteroids, it gets them more excited and interested in astronomy in a hands-on way. Helping Gabryszewska-Kukawa is her husband Mariusz Kukawa, who shows students how to navigate the software and he does a double-check before the students’ results are reported.

“If our students make a good find, the asteroid may even be named for CNM,” she said.