OU students published in scientific journal, contribute to astronomical research

Oglethorpe students Rowan Joignant ’24 and Jamie Lester ’24 recently had their research published in the peer-reviewed science journal of the American Association of Variable Stars.

Oglethorpe student Jamie Lester

Jamie Lester ’24

The article is the culmination of a year’s-worth of research completed by the students during their first year at the university.

In their research, the students used photometry — measuring visible light — to determine Earth’s distance from a far-off star. The star, “YZ Capricorni,” is what is known as an “RR Lyrae” star, which are often used by astronomers as convenient reference points when determining distance in space, due to their size and brightness. Making use of data collected by the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, the students ascertained the period, distance and magnitude of the star.

The American Association of Variable Stars is an international nonprofit whose mission is to enable everyone to participate in scientific discovery by studying the stars. The association strives to collect and archive scientific studies of space and foster collaboration between amateur and professional astronomers.

The logo for the American Association of Variable Star Observers. The letters "a a v s o" make up the logo.

In fact, the contributions of amateur astronomers, like Joignant and Lester, are considered invaluable to astronomers everywhere; with innumerable astral bodies to be observed, every bit of data collected about the stars can be applied to further research.

The two students conducted their project during the “Special Topics in Astronomy Research” course, taught by Associate Professor of Physics Dr. Mariel MeierBoth Lester, a physics major, and Joignant, a politics major, took this class over two semesters as first-years. Designed for students of intermediate levels of preparation, the course is a special offering that draws from areas of theoretical or experimental physics, or closely related fields such as astronomy and cosmology.

Joignant presented the findings of their research earlier this year at Oglethorpe’s annual Liberal Arts and Science Symposium — a celebration of exemplary scholarly work produced by Oglethorpe students under faculty mentorship.

The full article, titled “Photometric Determination of the Distance to the RR Lyrae Star YZ Capricorni,” can be read here.

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