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25016aOriginally Published The Nugget News July 5, 2016
Author Ron Thorkildson

Two Sisters High School students have been selected to attend an astronomy-related conference in Carson City, Nevada this summer. Alex Burroughs and Rylee Funk are president and vice president of the student division of the Sisters Astronomy Club, who have recently been active in the citizen science RECON program. Citizen science is scientific research conducted by amateur or nonprofessional scientists.

RECON, an acronym for Research and Education Collaborative Occultation Network, is a project designed to determine the size of rocky, icy bodies that orbit the sun beyond the planet Neptune. Established and run by Dr. Marc Buie of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and Professor John Keller at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, California, the project employs the method of stellar occultation to make this measurement.

An occultation occurs when an object in our solar system moves in front of a distant star, causing the star to disappear for a brief period of time. The amount of time the star is hidden from view by the intervening body is proportional to the size and shape of the body.

Burroughs and Funk were among only eight students chosen from over 50 participating communities to attend the RECON meeting. All costs associated with the conference, including travel, food and lodging, will be covered by RECON.

“Both these girls have such passion for astronomy. Going to this conference is a great opportunity for them to expand their understanding and participate in the astronomy community,” said Sisters High School teacher Rima Givot.

The two-and-a-half day meeting will be held in early August at the Jack C. Davis Observatory at Western Nevada College. The goals of the meeting include refining team procedures and practices, resolving technical issues, and sharing RECON curricula activities for engaging students in the project.

RECON is funded by the National Science Foundation.