Eight high school students from San Francisco, who are winners of a NASA-sponsored science contest, will have an opportunity to study a classic supernova with a new Japanese-U.S. space observatory scheduled to launch this summer.
The students and their physics teacher, Dr. Mark Hurwitz, from Lick-Wilmerding High School, proposed to study the historical Tycho Supernova. This is a star that famed astronomer Tycho Brahe observed when it exploded in 1572. The students want to understand how the chemical elements created in the explosion, such as oxygen and magnesium, are interacting with interstellar medium.
As winners, the students will have access to new data from the Astro-E2 X-ray Observatory, a Japanese mission with U.S.-built instruments and mirrors. Astro-E2 will launch from Japan this summer.
"I was absolutely delighted to learn that my students' proposal had been selected," said Hurwitz. "I tried to keep it a secret until the entire team could be assembled to tell them, but I just couldn't contain my enthusiasm. We feel like we've been called up to the Major League."
Hurwitz said his students worked exceptionally hard to write a professional-level science proposal. They organized lunchtime meetings and read not only textbooks and popular articles, but several professional astronomy journal articles as well.
"Their proposal really jumped out from the rest," said Dr. Jim Lochner, who leads the Astro-E2 education and public outreach efforts at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "These students made a good case to use Astro-E2 to study the chemical composition of supernova remnants and their interaction with the interstellar medium. Understanding how chemical elements necessary for life are made and dispersed in star explosions is still a major goal for astronomers."
Astro-E2, with its three X-ray telescopes, will observe a form of light invisible to our eyes and far more energetic than the optical light that Hubble Space Telescope detects. Newly minted chemical elements in star explosions are so energetic that they radiate brightly in the X-ray energy band. Astro-E2's instruments are finely tuned to study supernova remnants, as well as hot gas falling toward black holes.
The students, who will be seniors next year, are Alex Braman, Mike DeLiso, Kate Hancock, Kosuke Hata, Logan Pierce, Eric Soifer, Cyrus Stoller and Rafael Wabl. Mark Hurwitz is available for contact at email@example.com.
Astro-E2 will be launched on an M-V rocket and will attain a near-Earth circular orbit at approximately 570 km. The observatory's expected mission lifetime is five years. With its official name to be bestowed after deployment, Astro-E2, is the fifth in a series of Japanese satellites devoted to studying celestial X-ray sources. Previous missions are Hakucho, Tenma, Ginga, and ASCA.
For more information about the Astro-E2 mission, visit: