MSUM students submit research to NASA

New discoveries in our galaxy are constantly evolving the way we look for other planets. NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission is searching for exoplanets that can support life outside of our solar system.

To tackle this mission, MSUM students Mara DeRung and Emily Watson submitted observations of an exoplanet transit to NASA’s TESS mission. This was part of the TESS ground-based follow-up group over the past Summer. They collected research for this mission by documenting the orbit of a planet around a star, as it briefly dimmed the light of that star. This follow-up research is integral to the success of the greater mission.

NASA’s website contains a list of stars that need more data and research on. With MSUM’s resources, Mara and Emily collected and analyzed that data locally and submitted their work.

Dr. Matthew Craig, a professor in the Physics & Astronomy department, mentored the group throughout the project.

"It’s exciting. They were all very careful with data collecting and have been very good about rolling with the inevitable failures during the research,” Dr. Craig said.

This information was gathered using the Paul P. Feder Observatory at MSUM Regional Science Center, which was upgraded over the summer to make it possible to observe from campus. MSUM student Tanner Weyer played an important role in those upgrades, which were part of what made this research possible.

The experience the students received from this research played a key role in their education.

"I became a decision maker,” Mara said. “I love research and this project helped me solidify this passion. It opened the doors for me to figure out what I want to do in my future career.”

With technology and opportunity, it’s chances like these that shape a student’s passion for science. This work doesn’t only contribute to their education, but to something much greater than themselves.

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