Witty World

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Journey to the Space and Beyond

Journey to the Space and Beyond

At Witty International School we believe in fostering a passion for lifelong learning by acquiring skills and content required for successful and critical thinkers. In keeping up with this philosophy WIS recently organized a seminar for the students on “Astrobiology” and ‘NASA’s New Horizons Mission to Pluto and Beyond’ conducted by an esteemed Planetary Scientist from NASA, Dr. Henry Throop.

Throop is a Senior Scientist with the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, USA. He received a PhD in Planetary Science from the University of Colorado, USA, in 2000. His work focuses on the outer solar system, and he has published over 40 articles in scientific journals, on topics ranging from to rings of Saturn and Jupiter, to planet and star formation, to astrobiology and the origins of life, to searching for (and co-discovering) Pluto's smallest moon, Styx, in 2012. He is a frequent consultant to the US's NASA and the National Science Foundation.  While working at NASA, he was responsible for the oversight and management of two of the NASA's major scientific research programs. Throop has been a member of the science team for NASA’s New Horizons mission since 2003, and was involved in its historic flyby of Pluto on July 14, 2015.

Throop told the Wittians that after a nine-year journey though space, astronomers visited Pluto for the first time in July 2015, using a robotic NASA spacecraft called New Horizons. Despite being a cold and small icy body, New Horizons found Pluto’s surface to be young, dynamic, and varied. Planetary Scientist Dr. Henry Throop told the story of this NASA spacecraft mission, from its development and construction, through launch in 2006, to its successful encounter with Pluto, and its plans for onward encounters with bodies in the distant Kuiper Belt.

Dr. Henry Throop started by speaking to the students about Pluto’s discovery in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh studying photographs of the night sky. Constellations stay in the same place but planets move and using this he was also able to see a spot in the images that changed over time and so Pluto was revealed. The New Horizons initiative along with the collaboration of NASA, U.S.A sent a space craft to find more about the secrets of Pluto and it took 9 years to finally get the true images of Pluto. Dr. Throop was involved with the calibration of instruments on board New Horizons, including the infrared spectrometer, which measures energy that is given off in the infrared wavelength. Dr. Throop offered inspirational advice to Wittians, “The spark of creativity and curiosity must always be ignited in the students through various initiatives and discussions on Science and Technology.”

Dr. Henry Throop, also delivered an engaging talk about NASA's contribution to search for life in space over the past 50 years to the younger students of Grade 6. He suggested that instead of Mars, the future missions should target Jupiter's moon Europa as the moon is likely to have a sub-surface ocean. In his presentation on Astrobiology, Throop explored the history of ideas about the plurality of worlds and extraterrestrial life. From ancient Greek philosophy to Twentieth Century science fiction, he discussed the ways in which the possibility of life beyond the Earth has both inspired and terrified, becoming entangled with religious persecution, philosophical debate, development of scientific theories, politics and popular culture.  He dealt with some very essential questions asked by the curious Wittians about the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the lack of contact with such civilizations. This thought still manages to captivate human minds. Are we alone in the universe or were other civilizations destroyed as a result of ecological catastrophes or conflict? How does scientific knowledge direct our future scientific and technological pursuits on Earth and in space? These questions lead to the opening of an interesting topic – Astrobiology. Throop spoke about the ongoing search for micro-life in the universe and the future tests planned to conduct the isotopic analysis of the organic material retrieved from over 40 km above the earth's surface.

Throop stated, “This is my second visit to Witty International School and I am delighted to interact with the students again. The students at WIS are excellent, and they are supported by very good teachers, staff, and parents. The students are smart, curious, and engaging and I think we could have gone on for several hours with the good questions that everyone had.”

Mr. Bijo Kurian, the Principal of Witty International School, Pawan Baug said, “Our goal is to educate global-minded students who are curious, enthusiastic and principled leaders. We plan to harvest the rich resources of the most distinguished people in the varied fields to nourish a meaningful educational adventure for each student through this initiative.”




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