Last week I was in Reno for the Division of Planetary Sciences meeting. This meeting is held each year in a different location and provides a forum for those of us that study the solar system can get together and share our latest research results. Next year at this time I hope to be showcasing the results from our project. But first, we have to assemble the team of participants for the project. I had to drive south to Las Vegas after the DPS meeting so that I could talk to members of the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) about how they could participate in our project. Along the way between the two meetings I had a chance to meet with prospective team members.
Yerington High School in Yerington, Nevada.
My first stop was in Yerington, Nevada. I received a very warm and enthusiastic welcome here. The teachers were very excited about being a part of the project and I could tell they were already thinking of ways to use the project in their classes and how to enhance student involvement with multi-year participation in our project.
Mineral County High School in Hawthorne, Nevada
The next stop on my trip was in Hawthorne, Nevada. The biggest feature of the town is the nearby Army munitions base. At the school I was able to talk with an 8th grade earth science class and a 10th grade physical science class and tell them about exploring the Kuiper Belt. At this location I found the first strong community supporter in addition to the enthusiastic school response. The view from the back of the school across the ball fields was very nice. This will make a really good observing location.
Tonopah High School in Tonopah, Nevada
The third and final stop on this trip was in Tonopah. A small mining town nestled in the mountains. This is a community that is starting to embrace its locale in being able to provide access to dark desert skies. In this community there is a strong component of educators working closely with astronomy enthusiasts.
With these first three site visits, the RECON project is off to a great start. We’re looking forward to more visits and the opportunity to work with all of these folks.
Over the past week, planetary scientist Marc Buie and I have been visiting communities north of Reno to recruit participants to RECON. The response has been tremendous so far.
On Thursday, we had engaging conversations at the Fleischmann Planetarium at University of Nevada Reno and visited their telescope facilities at the UNR Redfield Campus. We also met with enthusiastic volunteers at Jack C. Davis Observatory on the Western Nevada College campus in Carson City.
Telescope facilities at UNR Redfield Campus
Friday, we headed northwest up to Quincy, California, where the Quincy Jr/Sr High School homecoming festivities were in full swing. After talking with one of the science teachers and principal there, we watched the Trojan homecoming parade down main street.
Watching the Quincy Homecoming Parade
Visiting Greenville High School
In the afternoon, we met with a large and engaging group of community members and teachers at the charter school in Greenville as well as an amateur astronomer who drove up from Chico. The group was very excited about the opportunities for students to do authentic astronomy research through the RECON project. We then quickly headed up to Susanville to meet up with teachers from Lassen High School at the Bateson Observatory.
Mt. Shasta viewed from McArthur, California
On Saturday morning we had an early morning meeting at Burney Jr/Sr High School followed by an afternoon conversation at Fall River Jr/Sr High School in McArthur. Marc and I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about each community and to explore ways to best deploy the RECON network.
Tomorrow, we head up to Tulelake High School on the California/Oregon border. We’ll then head down through Alturas, back to Susanville, and end up in Reno by nightfall. We are both very encouraged by and grateful for the warm receptions we have received on this trip. Let us know if you or anyone you know lives between Tulelake and Tonopah and is interested in learning more about this citizen science opportunity to measure the sizes of Kuiper Belt Objects!
Astronomers Marc Buie and John Keller fly to Reno this evening to begin a weeklong scouting trip from Reno up to Tulelake, California – meeting up with educators and amateur astronomers along the way.
Check in over the next week to follow along on their trip to recruit citizen scientists in measuring the sizes of Kuiper Belt Objects out past Neptune!