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Students To Track Asteroids from New Mexico Tech

Summer Science Program now underway at Etscorn Observatory

by Richard Bowdon, SSP Executive Director

SOCORRO, N.M., June 19, 2007 -- On Sunday three dozen of the world’s top high school science students from 19 states plus Singapore converged on New Mexico Tech for the Summer Science Program (SSP). For the next six weeks they will spend their days in college-level lectures, and their nights imaging and measuring the speck of light from a distant asteroid.

This is the fifth summer that Tech has sponsored and hosted the Summer Science Program’s second campus; the original campus in California has operated since 1959.

Working in teams of three, students will observe an asteroid with telescopes at Etscorn Observatory, measure its position precisely relative to nearby stars, then calculate its orbit using software they write themselves in the Weir Hall computer labs.

SSP students find that this intense research experience gives them crucial inspiration and preparation to major in physical science or engineering at leading universities. They find themselves in close contact with university professors and prominent guest speakers, an opportunity that may not come again until they reach graduate school. They will also enjoy behind-the-scenes tours of EMRTC, the Very Large Array, and Magdalena Ridge Observatory.

This year for the first time, the New Mexico state government is sponsoring five New Mexico students enrolled, including students from Albuquerque, Las Cruces, and Socorro. Others pay a $3400 program fee unless they qualify for need-based aid.

“We’re very happy to be back for our fifth summer at New Mexico Tech. Everyone here is extremely supportive, and the facilities are perfect for our program” said Richard Bowdon, SSP Executive Director.

SSP is operated by an independent non-profit corporation. Find complete information at www.summerscience.org.

-NMT-