Travelling the earth to see the stars
Gazing away from planet Earth has allowed a Tawa student to see plenty of the globe.
Tawa College student Connor Hale, 17, attended an astronaut training camp in Alabama, United States, last year, and will next week fly to Greece for the ultimate in college stargazing, the International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Forming New Zealand’s first Olympiad team are Connor, Wellington East Girls’ College student Darina Khun, 18, and Onslow College students Daniel Yska, 17, and Navadhi Delpachitra, 17.
All four are regulars at the Wellington Astronomical Society, and Connor and Darina already know each other from space camp in Alabama.
The Olympiad will bring together teams of up to five young people for an intense, 10- day round of tests, examinations and challenges relating to the heavens.
This year’s Olympiad, the seventh, will be held three hours from Athens in Volos.
Thirty-six countries will participate, but Greece and Eastern European nations were the ones to beat, said Gordon Hudson, president of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand.
Mr Hudson will accompany the New Zealand team to Greece and coach them before each day’s challenges.
Olympiad participants are required to analyse reams of data, do practical observation of the sky, and solve problems as a group. Calculating the amount of light emitted by a star might be required, or measuring how quickly a heavenly body is moving.
Testing can last five hours at a time.
‘‘They have very grilling examinations. It’s certainly no holiday for these guys. It’s an intense competition,’’ said Chris Monigatti, Connor’s physics teacher and head of Tawa College’s astronomy club.
‘‘It’s pretty heavy maths and number crunching.’’
The teens have been meeting twice a week for theory lessons and to pore over previous Olympiad questions.
Swotting up on the northern hemisphere sky is essential, although Connor and Darina are familiar with northern constellations from their time in the United States.
Darina was most looking forward to the practical challenges and getting her hands on some hispec refractor telescopes. ‘‘Even if it’s hard, you get to observe the night sky,’’ she said.
Neither Darina nor Connor had been to Europe before, so both were hoping to fit in some sightseeing among the sweating over star charts.
Stars in their eyes: Astronomer Gordon Hudson will accompany students Darina Khun and Connor Hale to Greece next week for an astronomy competition.