The Skynet Jr. Scholars program aims to help middle and high school students lead their own scientific explorations of the universe. The museum has been proud to operate a local chapter since 2018, which meets on Saturdays during the spring and fall semester.
Our Skynet Scholars enjoy hands-on astronomy and STEM activities, but the real excitement comes in as they hone their skills accessing a global network of research-grade telescopes over the internet. Scholars even learn to use the Skynet Robotic Telescope Network to take their own astronomical images.
The program is led by Bell planetarium programs coordinator Sarah Komperud, science educator Rob Palmer, and St. Cloud State University assistant professor Felicia Leammukda. Astronomy is a lifelong passion for Komperud, who has traveled to several of the international observatories our Skynet Scholars use during the program. She is regularly “blown away” by their work and drive to develop new skills and adapt to those little science curveballs that may come up over the course of the semester (like seeing past an overexposed planet Jupiter to all 4 of its Galilean moons in orbit). As she puts it: “Science often surprises us even when we think we know what we’re doing.”
See a sampling of our Skynet Scholar’s work below. Registration for our fall session opens July 1! Learn more and register today!
With Jupiter over exposed, we can see four of its moon (three, fainter circles to the left, one to the right)
The Tarantula Nebula is more than a thousand light-years in diameter, and located in the southern constellation Dorado.
M81 is one of the brightest galaxies in the night sky. It is located 11.6 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major.
Thor's Helmet (NGC 2359) is an emission nebula that spans about 30 light-years across, and is found in the constellation Canis Major.
The Whirlpool Galaxy, also known as M51, lies in the constellation Canes Venatici and was the first galaxy to be classified as a spiral galaxy.
The Dumbbell Nebula (Messier 27/M27) is a planetary nebula in the constellation Vulpecula. This object was the first planetary nebula to be discovered in 1764 by Charles Messier.
The Eagle Nebula (M16) is a young open cluster of stars in the constellation Serpens. The southern portion of the nebula is home to the star-forming region known as the Pillars of Creation.
M104, the Sombrero Galaxy, is a lenticular galaxy in the constellation Virgo.
Spiral galaxies form a class of galaxy originally described by Edwin Hubble in 1936. Most spiral galaxies consist of a flat, rotating disk containing stars, gas and dust, and a central concentration of stars known as the bulge--just like our own Milky Way!
The Crab Nebula is a supernova remnant in the constellation of Taurus.
The Black Eye Galaxy (M64) is a spiral galaxy located 17 million light years away in the constellation of Coma Berenices.
M68 is a globular cluster in the constellation of Hydra, roughly 33,000 light-years away. This cluster contains at least 2,000 stars, including 250 giants.