Big Bang Winner Nick Barham

Big Bang Winner Nick Barham

Publication Date: March 21st 2016

Congratulations to Nick Barham of Sackville School for his excellent achievement at the National Science + Engineering Competition 2016.

Nicks project 'Planet Hunter' which uses a Data Harvest 1Link data logger and a light level sensor to model the discovery of exoplanets was given the highly commended award in the junior maths and science category.

Nick tells us more about his project

Q: What is you project called and what is it about?
A: My project, Project Planet Hunter, is all about the discovery of Extra-Solar Planets (Exoplanets) orbiting other stars outside the Solar System through the Transit Method, one of the two main methods (The other being the Doppler Method) of detecting Exoplanets. 

Q: What does your project tell us about detecting planets?
A: The project tells us what different factors or variables Astronomers will come across which will affect how easy it is to detect the planet.

Q: What equipment did you use to build your project?
A: My project had a Desk Lamp representing the star, Blue-Tack spheres representing the planets, and a Data Harvest Light Sensor opposite the Desk Lamp.

Q: How does your project work?
A: To conduct the experiment, I would move the planet across, passing in front of the star which would cause a light dip, recorded on the EasySense computer software, which was connected to the Light Sensor via a 1Link Data Logger. I could change the size of the planet, which was the only variable, to discover how the size of the planet affected how easy it is to detect.

Q: What did you do to improve your project?
A: V2 of the project was vastly improved. It kept the same variable as the V1, but the V2 had more, the others being the size of the star, the colour of the star, the brightness of the star, and the distance of the planet from the star. This gave the V2 a lot more flexibility, so I could discover how each factor affected the difficulty of detecting the planet and I could see the results from different combinations of the variables.

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