From One of the High School Asteroid Discoverers:

I e-mailed Tim Pastika, one of the three high school sophomores who codiscovered a new asteroid, asking whether he wanted to say something about his project. He promptly responded:

Thank you. My classmates and I were recently given a choice between making a color picture (of nebulas, stars, etc.) or looking for new asteroids. Personally I thought that searching for asteroids would be so much cooler than making a picture because we might actually discover something new. However, many of the classmates were scared off by the thought of extra homework. The funny thing is we probably had to do less work than any of the other students.

When we discovered the asteroid, my friends and I -- to tell you the truth -- didn't think much of it. We were really just searching for faint moving dots.... Then we found out how extremely rare for us high school students to find these kinds of things. Astronomy is definitely something I would consider doing in the future; it's great.

P.S. I am not sure if it is official yet, but we are pretty sure we have found THREE more undiscovered asteroids.

In any case, congratulations again to Pastika, Connor Leipold, and Kyle Simpson -- good work!

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. From One of the High School Asteroid Discoverers:
  2. Now That Is Cool:
Patrick McKenzie (mail):
I am personally unable to get that enthusiastic about the discovery of a big rock, even if it was accomplished by people who are not normally engaged in the business of looking for big rocks, but if that's your hobby, whatever floats your boat.

(It is interesting that the fact of the rock being floating in space is important, since any Boy Scout walking through a forest could theoretically find a similarly-sized rock floating in space, which just happened to be floating close to a much bigger rock with an atmosphere around it.)
1.16.2008 11:38pm
Freddy Hill:
Number of American High School Sophomores making color pictures of nebulas and stars: Millions upon millions. Number of American High School sophomores finding new rocks in space: 3. Cool.
1.17.2008 12:53am
Eugene Volokh (www):
Patrick: I'm enthusiastic about high school students having a feeling of achievement -- a feeling that what they do matters, even if only in a small corner of science. I'm also enthusiastic about other high school students getting excited about science as a result.
1.17.2008 1:18am
RW Rogers:
Thanks for passing along that delightful story, Eugene. As Freddy already hit the personal and you the professional high notes equally well, all I want to add was a question, "Patrick, although I'm usually no more excited about rocks as you appear to be, where is your sense of awe and wonder?" I guess you outgrew it. Pity that.
1.17.2008 2:31am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

I suspect that those high-school students have a better grasp of science than you do. If an asteroid got that close to the earth, the earth's gravity would cause it to fall to earth; it would not float. Moreover, once it entered the atmosphere, the friction caused by its passage through the air would cause it to become very hot, resulting in substantial changes in the nature of the asteroid, including much of it burning up. If the asteroid was sufficiently large that something significant survived the passage through the atmosphere, not only would it not float, it would create a crater.
1.17.2008 2:34am
Aeon J. Skoble (mail):
I'm surprised no one has mentioned Deep Impact yet.
1.17.2008 8:25am
pmorem (mail):
One impact can ruin your whole day...

Spaceguard presents an introduction to why it matters, and what we're doing about it. Every rock that gets found helps, even if it isn't a "Potentially Hazardous Object".
1.17.2008 9:34am
ChrisIowa (mail):
The cool part is that amateurs can still make a real contribution to science.
1.17.2008 10:29am

The cool part is that amateurs can still make a real contribution to science.

Indeed. Google "amateurs astronomy". One of the interesting facts in the wiki article that leads is this:

Robert Owen Evans is a minister of the Uniting Church in Australia and an amateur astronomer who holds the all-time record for visual discoveries of supernovae.

Be sure to check out Evans's wiki article.
1.17.2008 11:17am
Michael Edward McNeil (mail) (www):
Back in 2004 graduate student Roi Alonso discovered a Jupiter-sized planet 500 light years away using a mere 10 cm (4 inch) telescope.  Thus, in principle many amateurs could be discovering planets circling other stars.
1.17.2008 3:35pm
Closet Libertarian (www):
Congratulations Tim! Reminds me of Lucifer's Hammer. Hopefully just the discovery part.
1.18.2008 11:31am
That's totally cool. I love reading stuff like that.
1.18.2008 1:55pm