A little boy finds the stars, loses them, and finds them again through TD


Courtesy Hubblesite.org

Hubble photographed "Ghost Light" from dead galaxies in galaxy cluster Abell 2744.

By: Adrian Ceppi, Staff Reporter

Thirteen years ago, a four-year-old boy would watch a videotape for hours on end. This videotape would show images of planets, stars, galaxies and supernovae while a narrator would speak of The Known Wonders of Our Universe. The videotape amazed the boy and made him wonder if there was more to outer space than just twinkling stars, the sun and our solar system—the only celestial objects he learned about in Kindergarten.

However, this curiosity vanished when the videotape he loved and cherished disappeared without a trace.

For the next 13 years, the boy was lost from the astronomical world. He drifted from subject to subject, school to school, and person to person in confusion about what to do next. It was not until the boy came to Thornton-Donovan School—where he made life-long friends of both students and faculty members and became fond of math, science, mythology, etymology and even Napoleon—that he found his way back to the astronomical world. And this this time, I have no intention of leaving.

Thanks to the teachings of Mr. Eric Griffin and his Astronomy course, I have found my love for the universe once again and learned more about it than ever before. It was also thanks to my friends, both students and faculty alike, that I found the courage to pursue my path in the astronomical world; and it was thanks to my family that I found the perfect opportunity to conduct research and find out what the real-deal, professional world of astronomy is all about. I found this love of research and passion toward the work of astronomy and astrophysics in my mentor, Elena Sabbi, at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) on the campus of Johns Hopkins University.

Now, I was not sure what the Space Telescope Science Institute was at the time of discussing a possible internship, but when I found out, I was astonished at the opportunity and begged for it (no joke). The Space Telescope Science Institute is a branch of Deep Space NASA, where employees examine images from the Hubble Space Telescope in many forms, including spectroscopy and photometry, to benefit the research of our universe. Also, the institute is where the Hubble telescope was designed and where the James Webb Space Telescope was designed and where it will be commanded. To astronomers, having a job at STScI, no, having an internship at STScI is a huge honor, and I was lucky to conduct my internship there this past summer.

Since STScI is located on the Johns Hopkins University campus in Baltimore, my father and I had to stay in Vienna, Va., with my uncle and aunt for the duration of my internship, which was a month and a half (imagine missing home-cooked food for that long). Everyday, I had to wake up with my father at 7 am so we could make the hour and a half drive of our lives to Baltimore. Working with Elena Sabbi was a real experience as to what astronomers and astrophysicists really do. My job was to view images captured by Hubble of the N44 region of the Large Magellanic Cloud (which is a satellite galaxy revolving around the Milky Way, the galaxy that is our home). I conducted aperture photometry and point spread function (PSF) fitting on the images. The result of aperture photometry and PSF fitting and some data crunching showed me, on the image, the amount of light sources (stars) detected by Hubble in the image and what it looks like on a data chart. During this internship, I learned more about what it really means to be an astronomer and astrophysicist and what people really do at STScI, such as wear beach shorts to work (true) and eat a chicken fontina sandwich almost every day (wait, that’s just me). I also got to go to the Goddard Space Flight Center, where astronomers and engineers are building the Webb Space Telescope, with other summer interns. It was an amazing trip of “astronomical” proportions.

In the end, I was able to complete 48 image examinations in the course of a month and a half, learn more about the astronomical and astrophysical research field as a whole and get offered another internship next year. I guess I know where I am going this coming summer. Also, with the internship and astronomy in mind, I know what I am going to go to college for, and thanks to the internship, I cannot wait till the day I visit STScI once again, the day I say hello and cheers to my mentor Elena, and the day I go to college to prepare myself for the astronomical and astrophysical research life I wish to live.