June 1, 2006
The Astronomical League, the world's largest federation of amateur astronomers, has announced the winners of its 2005 National Young Astronomer Award. This honor goes to high school students who demonstrate outstanding achievements in astronomy.
The first-prize winner is Mary Masterman, a junior at Westmoore High School in Oklahoma City. She is an experienced observer, having viewed 87 objects in a 2005 Messier Marathon. Masterman also is an avid member of the Oklahoma City Astronomy Club, and actively participates in public outreach. She volunteers at the Okie-Tex Star Party and provides observing lists for visiting high schools.
Her research project, entitled "Investigating Stars and Nebulae through the Construction of an Astronomical Spectrograph," was to find the elemental composition of stars, nebulae, and galaxies, and the spectral classes of stars. She presented this research to the American Astronomical Society and the Mid-America Regional Astrophysics Conference.
In August, Masterman will take an all-expenses-paid trip to the Astronomical League Convention in Dallas, where she will be awarded a plaque to commemorate her achievement. In addition, she won a Meade 10-inch LX-200R telescope.
Daniel Handlin, a junior at High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey was awarded second prize. Mostly a self-taught observer, Handlin joined the Society for Telescopy in 2004. He helps guide observing at public solar observing events held at local outdoor fairs and expositions.
Handlin has conducted research on atmospheric drag on manmade satellites using equipment readily available to amateur astronomers.
He will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the Astronomical League Convention and a Meade ETX 125 telescope.
Third prize went to Benjamin Jones, a senior at Sandra Day O'Connor High School in Helotes, Texas. Jones is a seasoned skygazer, having won many merit awards for Astronomical League programs, including lunar, double star, and meteor observing. He serves as president of his school's astronomy club, which Jones founded. During the summer, he volunteers at the George Observatory in the Brazos Bend State Park, outside Houston.
He aggressively fights light pollution. Through his efforts, Jones's hometown recently passed a new outdoor lighting ordinance. His research project analyzed effective outdoor lighting modifications. Jones will receive a plaque in recognition of his achievement.
The other finalists include Andie Cumbie of Macomb, Illinois; Moyang Li of Ballwin, Missouri; Jennifer Marsh of Manchester, Massachusetts; and Adam Solomon of Bellmore, New York.