Students at Goleta Valley Junior High School are among the first in the continental United States to use the Faulkes Telescope in Australia.

As part of an active partnership between GVJH and the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, professional astronomers coordinate small research projects with local students and share time on the research equipment.

Students in Kim Miller’s class at GVJH will connect from 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Thursday.

Student researchers Daniel Godinez, Caylin Canales, Jason Paras, Ashley Almada and Dos Pueblos High School’s Rishika Singh will operate the 2-meter professional research-grade telescope, controlled robotically over the Internet via a classroom computer. Their target is a star cluster for which little data has been collected.

Guided by Dr. Rachel Street, the online resources at the United Kingdom-based Faulkes Telescope Project and their teacher, the students will create Hertzsprung–Russell diagrams of the star cluster and may plot light curves of any variable stars they discover.

“I’m just amazed at the passion and interest that is sparked in students,” Goleta Valley Junior High Principal Veronica Rogers said. “The motivation and commitment to learning extends beyond the school day and inspires them as lifelong learners.”

— Barbara Keyani is coordinator of administrative services and communications for the Santa Barbara School District.