Teens Track Asteroid from Westmont

SSPThirty-six of the world’s top high school science students have been tracking the course of an asteroid as part of the 55th annual Summer Science Program (SSP) at Westmont. The students, from 14 states and six countries, attend college-level lectures during the day and then measure the speck of light from the near-Earth asteroid during the evening.

Working in teams of three, students have been taking a series of telescopic images of the asteroid, measuring its precise position and writing software to predict its future position from those measurements. “They may even predict a collision with Earth thousands or millions of years in the future,” says Richard Bowdon, SSP executive director. “This intense, hands-on research experience gives students life-changing inspiration and preparation to study science or engineering in college.”

The students work with professors, meet prominent guest speakers and enjoy behind-the-scenes tours of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics.

The four-week program moved to Westmont College in 2010 after 51 years in Ojai. “Everyone here is extremely supportive, and the facilities are perfect for our program, especially the 24-inch Keck telescope,” Bowdon says.

SSP is operated by an independent non-profit in cooperation with Westmont, Caltech, MIT, and New Mexico Tech. For more information, please visit www.summerscience.org or contact Richard Bowdon at (919) 439-7759 or rbowdon@ssp.org.