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    The Summer Science Program: Research in Astrophysics

    The Summer Science Program: Research in Astrophysics


    • Listing Type: Summer Programs
    • Program Delivery: Residential
    • Destination: United States
    • Provided By: College, Independent Provider
    • Session Start: June
    • Session Length: Six Weeks
    • Entering Grade: 11th, 12th
    • Gender: Coed
    • Category: STEM
    • Sub-Categories: Astronomy, STEM, Physics
    • Selective: Yes
    • Ages: 16, 17
    • Credit Awarded: No
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    The Summer Science Program is a nationally regarded, non-profit educational program which focuses on bringing together talented, motivated juniors (rising seniors by the summer of participation) from around the globe for real-world STEM research experiences. We provide financial aid and meet 100% of participant need, including travel costs, room and board, and stipends to cover program basics for high-need students.

    Astrophysics participants take part in a living learning community on college campuses throughout the US and complete research on near-Earth asteroids. On the first day, participants learn celestial coordinates, and how to interpret an ephemeris to select a near-earth asteroid to study. Each team of three (within a total cohort of 36 participants) then writes an “observing proposal” similar to what an astronomer would submit to an observatory. On the third night, teams begin observing runs at the telescope. After each run, the team locates the asteroid’s faint dot among the background stars, then precisely measures its position relative to surrounding stars. Once they have at least three or four observations taken on different nights, they write software in Python to calculate the asteroid’s position and velocity vectors, then transform them into the six orbital elements that characterize the asteroid’s orbital ellipse. Each team performs every step themselves: choosing their asteroid, pointing the telescope, taking images, reducing the data, calculating the orbit. Some go on to improve the accuracy of their calculated orbits using additional observations to make differential corrections. Another option is to use Visual Python to make an animation of their asteroid orbiting the sun! 

    Outside of research hours, participants attend guest lectures from world-renowned scientists and professionals, attend nightly dinners with their 2-3 PhD-level faculty, engage in exciting activities with their cohort, and go off-site for intellectual and recreational field trips.

    After the last day, the community does not end, it disperses and broadens. Participants become part of a lifelong alumni community of over 2,500 alumni in wide variety of career pathways and research areas in and out of science.