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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 12:09 am | Fair 51º


Goleta Valley Girl Shoots For the Stars, Plots Light Curves

14-year-old astronomer April Gadsby uses telescopes around the world for independent research.

When she’s not enjoying the beach or playing alto sax, tenor sax, trumpet or guitar, April Gadsby keeps tabs on the stars.

April Gadsby

Gadsby, a Goleta Valley Junior High eighth-grader, can plot a light curve of an eclipsing binary system using data she gathered halfway across the world using her home computer.

Gadsby’s science teacher, Kim Miller, says Gadsby also controls a multimillion-dollar robotic telescope in Australia, e-mails her results to the national schools astronomer of Great Britain, and, on May 31, will give a short talk at a teachers conference at the

Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics

at UC Santa Barbara.

Gadsby is the first student in the United States to use the

Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network

for independent research, and probably the youngest person ever to use the Australian telescope.

For her work, she won a gold medal at the Santa Barbara County Science Fair this year and will compete at the

California State Science Fair

in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

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As part of a class project with the LCOGT, Gadsby learned how to use the Muhlenberg telescope in Siding Springs, Australia, and became interested in using robotic telescopes to gather data about distant star systems.

She persisted with independent research and worked with astronomers through the LCOGT and Faulkes Telescope programs, and also learned how to control the large two-meter

Faulkes Telescope

on Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

“I have been interested in astronomy since I was 10 years old,” Gadsby says. “This was the first time in my life that I met real astronomers, not amateurs, and actually got to work with them. It was exciting to use the research-grade telescope and exhilarating to create light curves that actually looked like binary system light curves.”

Gadsby worked with local astronomers Dr. Martin Hidas and Dr. Rachel Street and received help over the Internet from Daniel Duggan of the Faulkes Telescope project in Great Britain.

“We are impressed with her enthusiasm and pleased that she was able to use our facilities to do a wonderful research project,” said Jessica Barton, the education outreach coordinator for LCOGT.

Barbara Keyani is the Santa Barbara School District’s coordinator of special projects and communications.

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