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Charlie Carvajal and Jaidyn Catherall, interns at GLAS Education, are working with the Stone Edge Observatory (SEO) as part of the Stone Edge All-Sky Survey, or SEAS Survey. The SEAS Survey is building a sky map, establishing an astronomical database, and performing analyses of asteroids, comets, stellar motion, and supernovas. Jaidyn and Charlie are taking important steps in fulfilling the all-sky survey. The two gave a report on their progress on July 26. Stone Edge Observatory is in Sonoma, California, meaning Jaidyn and Charlie have to do remote viewing of the telescope. Viewing time is rough on sleeping time. “Because California is two hours behind us, by the time it’s 10 p.m. there it’s already midnight here,” Charlie said. Viewing and imaging can run until 6:30 a.m.Charlie said it took some effort to learn to use the telescope. At times there were programming errors and trouble tracking objects. 

Jaidyn and Charlie  have been working with Professor Doyal “Al” Harper of the University of Chicago’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and former director of Yerkes Observatory on a process of clarifying telescopic images called “reducing.” Reducing an image is accomplished by a series of programs, called a pipeline, that strips out unnecessary pixels. The goal is to produce a clear picture of the cosmic object. The original pipeline used by SEO was developed by Dr. Marc Berthoud and is on a computer at the University of Chicago. Charlie and Jaidyn have copied that program to the Raspberry Pi computer at the GLAS Education office.

Charlie said that Prof. Harper has a similar pipeline program on his Jupyter Notebook. The Jupyter Notebook is a web-based tool for creating and sharing live code, equations, visualizations, and text. Prof. Harper has also asked Jaidyn and Charlie to reduce images Lake Geneva high school student Sydney “Syd” Krause took of the variable star RR Lyr using the pipeline and compare them with the images he produced with his pipeline.

Jaidyn is also working on applying a statistical method called “periodic folding” which determines the period of a variable star without having to spend days, weeks, months, or even years observing the star. Variable stars are stars that appear to pulsate over a specific period of time. Astronomers can use variable stars to estimate interstellar and intergalactic distances. Jaidyn said she’s also working out a way to teach periodic folding through a tactile medium.

Finally, the work done on SEAS will also contribute to a program that teaches English-speaking African students in Nigeria, Zambia, Cameroon, South Africa, Mauritius, and Madagascar basic information about astronomy, such as sky orientation and the mechanics of refracting and reflecting telescopes. Jaidyn said she now understands Dr. Harper’s Jupyter Notebooks well enough to explain them to SEAS students. 

Learn more about our SEAS Survey Project here:

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