Explore the high-energy Universe – competition for secondary students

22 September 2011

ESA invites secondary school students to participate in a challenging competition to explore the high-energy Universe.

Students at secondary school can choose from four projects relating to ESA’s Integral gamma-ray observatory in which they are challenged to Observe,Research,Design or Build. A number of great prizes are on offer, the top prize for the overall winners of each project is a trip to Paris, France, to attend and present their work at the 9th INTEGRAL science workshop. The competition will run until 31 March 2012.

For nearly 10 years the INTEGRAL gamma-ray observatory has been watching an impressive cosmic light show, observing some of the most energetic phenomena in the Universe, such as: black holes devouring matter, colossal explosions known as gamma-ray bursts, and supernova explosions - the swan-song of a giant star. This competition forms part of the celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of INTEGRAL. By participating, students will explore the extreme and ever-changing Universe with tools and techniques used in real research.

The competition

In this competition students will take on the roles of the engineers, scientists and astronomers whose ingenuity and skills enabled the development of a space mission that studies some of the most violent and exotic processes in our dynamic Universe. To enter the competition students will be able to choose from four projects that encourage them to utilise a variety of skills as they: Observe, Research, Design or Build.

Each project will be judged in 3 age categories: under 13 year olds, 14 -16 year olds and 17 – 19 year olds. The overall winner of each project, across all three age categories, will receive the top prize of a trip to Paris to participate in the 9th Iintegral science workshop. Every individual who sends in a valid entry will also receive a certificate acknowledging their participation in this competition.

ESA’s Integral observatory is able to detect gamma-ray bursts, the most energetic phenomena in the Universe.
Integral: gamma-ray observatory

Project 1: Observe variable stars with your own telescope
In this project students will use their own small telescopes to make observations of the variable stars. Students can then compare their own observations with data taken by the optical telescope on the Integral space observatory.

Project 2: Research – discover the central region of our Galaxy
For this project students will investigate INTEGRAL observations of the dynamic centre of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, looking for clues to determine which exotic high-energy sources are present.

Project 3: Design your own high-energy astrophysics mission
Working in small teams students will design their own mission to investigate the most powerful phenomena in the Universe. In this project students will look at every aspect of planning a space mission, including, determining the science aims of the mission and designing the spacecraft and scientific payload.

Project 4: Build your own Integral spacecraft
Students undertaking this project will build a scale-model of the INTEGRAL spacecraft using materials of their choice.

Competition milestones

  • Competition launches – 22 September 2011
  • Competition closes – 31 March 2012
  • Winners announced – 31 May 2012
  • 9th INTEGRAL science workshop - 15-19 October 2012

Who can participate?

The competition is open for participation by students, registered as attending secondary school during the academic year 2011-2012, from ESA Member States and Cooperating States*, Russia and the USA.

* ESA Member States in 2012
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.
Cooperating States
Canada, Estonia, Hungary and Slovenia.

If you have any questions about the competition, please contact Rebecca Barnes at SciEdu @ esa.int

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