Steven's High School student Ashley Nord
Wins Top Prize at Science Fair,
resulting in having an asteroid named after her
Ashley Nord used the Badlands Observatory at Quinn to calculate the size and distance to the Andromida Galaxy for a science project. Watching her work is the observatory's owner, Ron Dyvig.
After conducting astronomical research at Badlands Observatory in Quinn, SD, Ashley Nord of Steven's High School in Rapid City was awarded the top prize at the High Plains Regional Science and Engineering Fair held on March 22, 2002 at the SD School of Mines and Technology. Ms. Nord's project was titled "THE SIZE AND DISTANCE TO THE ANDROMEDA GALAXY". As a result of winning the regional science fair here in South Dakota, she traveled to Louisville, Kentucky in May for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. There, she faced the world’s best science-fair projects and was a finalist. As a result, she was honored by having an asteroid named after her.
Congratulations to Ashley Nord and to Badlands Observatory, an educational affiliate of the SD Space Grant Consortium. Appreciation is extended to Mr. Ron Dyvig, Director of Badlands Observatory, for making his facility available for this project. Dr. Roberta Gaines, science teacher at Stevens High School, is also acknowledged for her support to Ashley Nord.
Abstract of Ms. Nord's winning project
The purpose of this research was to determine the size of and distance to
the Andromeda Galaxy, M-31. The
Andromeda Galaxy is the furthest object that can be seen with the unaided eye.
It was hypothesized that M-31 is approximately 2.0-2.9 million light
years from earth, and that it is about 150 thousand light years in diameter.
Two four-minute exposures of M-31 were taken using a 26” telescope. Two flat images were taken and subtracted from the exposures of M-31. Twenty globular clusters were identified on the two images. Using reference stars and two computer programs, the magnitudes of the identified globular clusters were determined. Using the average magnitudes of globulars in M-31, a given magnitude and distance to Omega Centauri (the largest globular cluster in the Milky Way), and the inverse square law, the distance to M-31 was determined. Then, using the distance to M-31, and a given number for the angular diameter of M-31, the actual diameter of M-31 was found.
It was calculated that the distance to M-31 is 2.00 million light years, and the diameter of M-31 is 104 thousand light years.
This research represents one technique of calculating the size of and distance to numerous galaxies. Since it has lately been theorized that the Andromeda Galaxy and the Milky Way are actually a bound pair of galaxies in orbit with each other, and that the two galaxies are moving towards each other, it is important to have accurate information on M-31.
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