Inspired by a Contest
Helen Usher of the Faulkes Telescope Project (UK) describes how a Europlanet arts contest has led to collaborations with a young Lithuanian astronomer, Rytis Babianskas.
Read article in the fully formatted PDF of the Europlanet Magazine.
When we set up the #InspiredByOtherWorlds arts competition, initially as part of the virtual Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) in 2020, we hoped it would stimulate interest in planetary science and lead to new collaborations1 We are so pleased that this is proving to be the case. Rytis Babianskas, a 12-year-old from the Juozas Urbšys School in Kaunas, Lithuania, was a winner of the #InspiredByOtherWorlds contest in 2020 with flipbooks about aliens and Jupiter’s moons, and he also participated in the 2021 competition with simulations of exoplanets.
Over the past year, I have had the pleasure of working with Rytis, along with his dad, Carlos. According to Rytis, the Europlanet award has been a source of inspiration and encouragement, and he has been keen to move forward with his interest in astronomy. Rytis clearly has a passion for the subject and great programming ability too!
I work with the Faulkes Telescope Project, which gives remote access for educational purposes to the research-grade telescopes of the Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) global network. Rytis has now made a series of observations of the universe using the LCO remotely-operated robotic telescopes, and presented them at his school in an exhibition entitled ‘The Universe from my Room’.
The exhibition was on display at the school for two months, and Rytis was also invited to present it at the Neveronys Gymnasium in April and at Vytautas Magnus University Ugnė Karvelis Gymnasium in May 2022. Through 14 images taken over a period of five months, the exhibition shows various celestial objects, including asteroids and comets, stellar associations (loose star clusters), binary stars, nebulae, supernovae and galaxies.
The images include some current targets of interest, such as the asteroid (7482) 1994 PC1 that passed close to Earth in January 2022, the main-belt asteroid (248370) 2005 QN137, Supernova 2021aefx in NGC 1566, and comet 67P/Churyumov- Gerasimenko, which had its closest approach to Earth in November 2021. As well as making pictures to inspire others, Rytis has also been gathering data for scientific purposes as part of the Comet Chasers project, which links professional and amateur astronomers with schools.
Comet 67P is the comet visited by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission and is the subject of my research. Rytis had earlier coded a simulation of the orbit of 67P and so it seemed natural to collaborate with him to make observations of the comet for my research. To aid researchers in the LCO Outbursting Objects Key (LOOK) Project, Rytis also made observations of some other interesting comets, including to see if Comet 108P was breaking up. I’m very pleased he is sharing what he has been doing with both his classmates and other local schools. When his observations are used in research publications, they will be credited too. Congratulations Rytis!
If you are a teacher, amateur astronomer or researcher interested in the Comet Chasers project then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. You can access the Faulkes Telescope facilities via the Europlanet Telescope Network.