10 June 2020

Over the last year, three lower sixth students have participated in the Cosmic Mining Project hosted by the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS) in collaboration with the James Webb Telescope science team. The aim of the project, open to all IRIS member schools such as Abingdon, is to assist the scientists in identifying potentially interesting target objects to investigate in more detail using the enhanced instrumentation available on the James Webb Space Telescope due for launch next March.

Ashwin Tennant, Scott Yap and Ivan Gabestro worked together to learn the methods needed to identify the spectra of various types of stellar objects and then applied these to identification of several training sets of data. The James Webb team then sent feedback and analysis hints from the training sets until the Abingdon team was judged to be sufficiently competent to work on unseen data sets, the ones the scientists are really interested in analysing. Using school teams to carry out such work allows the scientists to process a far larger quantity of data using a blend of computer processing and human intuition to select unusual objects for further observation.

Ashwin, Scott and Ivan have produced a video presentation on their project, no mean feat whilst being at home during lockdown in Oxford, Moscow and Hong Kong

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