Upper School students develop classification technique to research asteroids

For the past year, as part of the Exploration of the Moon and Asteroids by Secondary Students (ExMASS) initiative run by the Lunar Planetary Institute, five Upper School students have been conducting a research project of their own design, in consultation with Dr. Caitlin Ahrens at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Juniors Blythe Thompson, Nathan Bukowski-Thall, Henry Moore, Deon Rivers, and Whittier Tone were curious about where we might be able to find specific types of asteroids and what types of asteroids hold the best resources for potential future extraction. After developing a technique to classify asteroids using their infrared spectra, they discovered that M-type asteroids (rich in metals such as nickel and iron) and C-type asteroids (containing lots of carbon, water, and silicates) are located a bit farther from Earth than S-type asteroids (containing nickel, iron, and magnesium). They also discovered that S-type asteroids are by far the most common type of asteroids near Earth.

The students presented their findings to a panel of scientists from around the world, along with students from eight other schools across the US. For a closer look at their methods and results, check out the poster that they produced.