Congratulations to our students published in scientific journal

How do new scientific ideas and discoveries become known? For instance, how do you know that DNA is a double-helix? Probably not from the 1953 edition of Nature journal, but that’s where it was first published and made available for the rest of the world to learn about – but only after a tick of approval from the scientific community.

Since the mid-17th Century, science has been communicated to the wider world through peer-reviewed journals. The hopeful scientists send off their report to a group of their peers who are the editorial board of a scientific journal (a body of widely accepted experts in that particular field). The report is carefully analysed and dissected to check the validity of their methods and the reliability of their conclusions. The journal editors make suggestions – not always constructively – and return the report for further improvement or clarification (and in some cases, for the bin!).

Publication is an important metric for scientists, however it can be a long, arduous and discouraging process, and publication is never assured. But if the report is published in a creditable peer-reviewed scientific journal, the authors have made it as scientists and their discovery gets out there.

In January this year, eight of our young people were published in the Journal of Double Star Observations, achieving a true milestone for them and the College. For Team Alpha (Emily Barker, Harry Cavanough, Liza Kelly and Ada Whitwell) and Team Beta (Oscar Geerts, Derrick Liu, Darcy Wenn and Orlando Yen), this is an outstanding and memorable achievement that they can be proud of for the rest of the scientific careers!

Here is a summary of their papers:

Team Alpha
Investigation Of BPM 751 Has Uncovered A Potential Third Star In The System (BPM 751C)1

The purpose of Team Alpha’s InStAR study was to determine the orbital pattern of two stars in a star system in the constellation Hercules called BPM 751.

We wanted to know whether the stars were a true binary star system. Binary systems are stars that are gravitationally bound to each other and so orbit around a common center of gravity. Binary stars can be determined from changes in two types of measurements of their relative position that indicate whether the stars are moving around each other as a true binary pair, or are just two stars that appear next to each other in the sky, but are actually far apart. As well as collecting data with a 0.4m astronomical telescope, our team also used newly-released historical data from Harvard University dating back over 100 years. The results of our investigation strongly suggest that two stars in BPM 751 may represent a newly discovered binary system!

This experience taught us new real world scientific techniques that we were able to experience for the first time outside the classroom. It gave us the knowledge and the skills that we needed to publish a scientific research paper in the Journal of Double Star Observations. As a team, we are very excited and proud to see our work on display
in a professional scientific journal and know that we are contributing to the wider field of astronomy! We are extremely grateful to have been offered this opportunity by ELTHAM College.

Team Beta
An Investigation Into The Stellar And Orbital Properties Of WDS 02462-5403 A And B2

Team Beta’s research area was Double Star Astrometry, or in simpler terms, the study of star systems with two suns. We were able to discover a surprising amount of data on the double star system that we chose to investigate, ‘WDS 02462-5403’.

Throughout our investigation, we used data pulled from the European Space Agency’s GAIA Satellite. We found that the star system is approximately 769 light-years away from Earth and that the two stars are 1,147x further apart than Pluto is from Earth. That means they would take 6.2 million years to orbit one another! Through a series of calculations, we were also able to discern that the two stars are both ‘sun-like’ stars with very similar sizes, temperatures, and masses to our sun.

It’s been truly eye-opening to walk through the proper scientific process and talk to various experts in the field throughout the course of writing this paper. We are really excited to be some of the first Australian students to have their original research published in the Journal of Double Star Observations.

1Barker, E. et al. (2021). Investigation Of BPM 751 Has Uncovered A Potential Third Star In The System (BPM 751C). Journal of Double Star Observations, 17(1), 85-88.

2Wenn, D. et al., (2021). An Investigation Into The Stellar And Orbital Properties Of WDS 02462-5403 A And B. Journal of Double Star Observations, 17(1), 63-67.

Darren Smith
Head of Science