By: Jennifer S

After attending digital classes for almost three semesters, you would expect a day in online SSP to quickly pass by as well. But instead, I was pleasantly surprised – between learning about various coordinate systems, measuring the altitude of the sun, frantically spamming “ctrl+z” in Overleaf, and spiraling out of control over stellar puns with my teammates, Solis seemed to depart unusually slowly across the horizon.


Within just the first day of SSP, we’ve already submitted observing proposals on three of our favorite orbiting comrades. And meeting fellow SSPers from all over the world, whether in breakout rooms, about-me introductions, or #banana-eating has made me realize just how lucky I am to be in this hard-working and dynamic community. 


But before I ramble on—first, a galactically difficult physics problem, perhaps involving fictitious forces and gyroscopic motion:

How can you measure the radius of a wheel with a stopwatch and a marker? (Scroll to bottom of post for solution)

Hungry? Here’s Something Tasty! 

One of my favorite topics in astrophysics is galactic accretion, more commonly known as galactic cannibalism. According to the Hierarchical Merger Model, structures in the universe continuously merge to create larger structures. In galactic accretion, miniature dwarf galaxies are drawn to a larger galaxy, and subsequently torn apart by the gravitational field (hence, cannibalism). As their stars spread, they become a part of the halo of the larger galaxy, and the dwarf galaxy forms a unique substructure that can be classified based on its morphology.

(Carlin et. al, Stellar Tidal Streams in External Galaxies)

The substructure in the left column is a great circle, occurring when the orbits of dwarf galaxies are relatively circular. Orbiting at a greater distance from the center results in weaker tidal forces such that the stream of stars is largely undisturbed.

In the middle are shells or plumes, occurring when the orbits are extremely radial. The dwarf galaxy approaches close to the middle of the larger galaxy, resulting in a spread-out structure extending from the center.

And on the right is a mixed structure. This occurs after long periods of time when random gravitational influences of the halo destroy much of the characteristic features of accretion, resulting in a blurry, donut-like shape.

So, if you ever feel peckish during a 5-hour learning block, just reach for the stars! (Or a bowl of chicken newton soup, à la Andrew & Peyton :).

Some Final Words

 (before this happens)

 if (6, 21, 21) <= today_date <= (7, 24, 21): 

       info_in_brain += 1

       if info_in_brain > 1000: 


             sys.exit(“nice try, memory full”)

Forgetting to convert to UTC (why isn’t the sun setting?!).

Arguing about whether cereal is a type of soup. 

Laughing over our (obviously SOUPerior) team name, the SouperStars!Poggers!! …until we realized another team had the same name. Ah, unfortunate.

I can tell the next four weeks will be crazy, and surely outta this world. Amidst the many bugs to squash, nebulous clouds to dodge, and stars to watch, remember that even asteroids aren’t perfect, so guess it’s time to embrace making mistakes! 

Just like embracing the fact that ~crunchy rainbow flakes in milk broth~ IS a type of soup.

Physics Solution:

Sometimes, the neatest problems have the simplest solutions (aww, no fictitious forces?). Drop the marker from the top (or middle) of the wheel and measure the time it takes to reach the ground. Then, use our handy kinematics formula x=2R=1/2gt^2! (source: physics is phun)

– Jennifer S, SSP’21

About Me

Hi! My name is Jennifer S, and I am a rising senior at Valley Christian HS in San Jose, CA. I enjoy competitive physics, drawing, playing violin, and running cross country. So far, my favorite parts of SSP are the people, PSETs, and crossword puzzles. Looking forward to an epic summer!

ft – Zhanpei’s friendly reminder pogfish

1 comment

  1. Anonymous

    May constant acceleration kinematics equations never fail.

    Blessings Mr Naumann

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