HdA support for science fair participants: Dark matter for the win in Nordbaden, asteroids in the Münster region

February 28, 2019

Pupils connected with Haus der Astronomie have successfully participated in Germany's regional science fair at the senior level ("Jugend forscht") and at the junior level ("Schüler experimentieren").

Dark matter won the day: Catharina Hock (14), with the support and advice of HdA managing scientist Markus Pössel, won first prize in the junior category ("Schüler experimentieren") of the Nordbaden regional science fair. With this, she is now qualified for the state-level science fair for Baden-Württemberg this summer.

Using the Python programming language, including Astropy, Catharina had analyzed the rotation curve and brightness distribution of the galaxy NGC 3198. Starting from the brightness distribution, she had then simulated the rotation curve one would expect if all the mass of NGC 3198 was in the form of stars. The discrepancy between the simulated and the actual rotation curve points to the existence of non-stellar matter (professional astronomers, when they have taken into account additional contributions from the galaxy's gas, go as far as to deduce the presence of non-luminous dark matter). The rotation curve data stems from the THINGs survey led by Fabian Walter of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, who contributed to Catharina's project with helpful advice.

Levin Belli (16) from Pascal-Gymnasium in Münster (one of HdA's partner schools), who had already won the state-wide prize in "Schüler Experimentieren" in the geosciences and spatial sciences category in North Rhine-Westphalia, won another regional prize – but this time in "Jugend Forscht". Levin continued his asteroid search project with the Faulkes telescopes, and succeeded in re-observing several asteroids he had discovered himself in the previous year with the help of a search program coordinated by Levin, in which other observers also participated. Levin was also able to determine the orbital data of the observed asteroids, allowing astronomers to conduct follow-up observations whenever necessary. From April 1 to 3, Levin will present his project at the state-wide competition in Leverkusen.

With Dylan Bloom and Michel Dahlhaus, a second team from Pascal-Gymnasium Münster took part in the "Schüler experimentieren" competition, placing second at the regional level with their observations of the comet 46P/Wirtanen.

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