News IRIS Award for Physicists 03.07.2020

Congratulations to all of our students in the Institute for Research in Schools cosmic mining club who were awarded a ‘highly commended’ for their excellent poster designed for the Spring IRIS Conference which was sadly cancelled due to coronavirus.

The Institute for Research in Schools – At Home project, based on the James Webb Space Telescope, allows students to explore key Physics themes such as the electromagnetic spectrum and life cycle of a star. It introduces students to the advance skills of Photometry and Spectroscopy, expanding learning outside the curriculum and developing their science capital.

The project aimed to analyse infrared spectra to classify sources and identify potential targets for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) by analysing point source data from the previous Spitzer mission. Students from Godolphin and Latymer, Kensington Aldridge Academy, and West London Free School completed phase 1 of their training together before progressing to phase 2 as individual schools. The training involved classification guidance, live webinars with scientists to ask relevant questions, creating flow charts to reinforce important points and details and group practise and discussions of difficult graphs. The investigating team encountered errors in the training data, but quickly learnt to combat the issues with a more rigorous approach for the real data, helping them classify their first set of real, unseen data, consisting of 51 point sources. Their classifications and notes are then passed onto the scientists who work with the James Webb Space Telescope and from there will determine whether the targets identified are worthy of further investigation.

On their next steps, the team of Godolphin physicists commented: ‘Throughout this process, we have all noted increased fluency in interpreting spectra, as well as increased confidence in reliability. This has not only allowed us to classify our data faster and more effectively, but has also encouraged a more in-depth understanding of the underlying physics. More importantly, it has given invaluable insight into the importance of peer reviewing and rigorous scientific method. We have had great success in reach all age groups of students in our school and in forming a fun community of physics-loving students, that has encouraged extra learning and engaging conversations across the school years. We hope to continue this trajectory as we receive more data, and as we train more students to classify star spectra’.