WV student makes astronomical discovery
High school student Lucas Bolyard took note of a blip on a screen, and discovered an exotic star.
October 12, 2009 ·
A South Harrison High School student discovered a rare astronomical object as part of a research project with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank and WVU.
The student and his discovery were recognized by the President at a White House event last week.
High school sophomore Lucas Bolyard was at home one weekend last
March when he decided to log into his computer and analyze data from the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope.
He took note of a blip on the screen that turned out to be a
rotating radio transient.
“I discovered a special kind of pulsar called a rotating
radio transient, which is basically a pulsar that turns on and off, but I
wasn’t 100 percent sure so I reported it to Dr. McLaughlin at WVU.”
After more research, WVU Physics Professor Maura McLaughlin
confirmed Bolyard’s discovery of what she calls an exotic star.
“Scientifically it’s significant because it’s a new type of
neutron star, but we don’t know why they’re different from normal radio
Bolyard made the discovery while participating in the Pulsar Search Collaboratory, a project between the NRAO, West
high school science teachers, and some 100 high schools students from West
Virginia and surrounding states.
NRAO Education Officer Sue Ann Heatherly says science
teachers and students are trained on how to read data collected by the Green
“We have 30 terabytes of data for students to look through
that have not ever been looked through before by scientists.”
Because of his discovery, Bolyard was invited to the White
House last week for a “star party,” and was recognized by President Obama at an
event to encourage students to study science.
This is also something the Pulsar Search Collaboratory
“The program’s focus is to recruit high school students to
become scientists,” said Heatherly.
The three-year Pulsar Search Collaboratory is funded by a
$900,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.