Working with asteroids has really left an impression

Author: Jonathan C.

It’s June 28th at 10 pm PST and I’m playing a game of PvZ Heroes as a way to relax (something that is quite valuable for SSP). The assignments that are due on June 29th seem so far away.

Until, I come across the Astro-Shroom card and suddenly realize that our asteroid observing request is due on June 29th UTC, which is essentially the night of June 28th, aka in 2 hours. Racing against the clock, I scramble to contact Alex on Discord, who is luckily also on the West Coast and still awake. We hop onto a Discord call and attempt to remember how we were supposed to find the necessary information for our observing request. I’m struggling to discern the plethora of new terms I’ve learned in the past 1.5 weeks, from nautical twilight to right ascension, from azimuth to declination. But using our past observing request as a guide, Alex and I were able to piece together what was required and managed to submit within 30 minutes.

Except we managed to screw up the observing window (hint: it’s a really important part of observing). But luckily Alice, who’s from the East Coast, woke up early and managed to fix our mistakes before it was too late.

The team dynamics is one of the things I love best about SSP. Each team member has their own individual strengths and weaknesses, but as a team, we’re able to solve our tasks. Normally, in school I often worked independently on assignments. But with SSP, I realized the value of collaboration and how I shouldn’t be hesitant to ask for help. 

Like today, when we worked on figuring out the optics of a glass sphere, it took the efforts of all three of us (plus a TA) to figure out the diagram. It was definitely frustrating, as evidenced by several scratched out diagrams, but it was extremely rewarding to finally understand the key to the problem after thinking about it for so long.

The spirit of collaboration and the sense of community goes beyond our observing team. Shout out to Team 8 (Rom, Tanvi, and Elane) when I decided to enter their breakout room randomly with questions about telescopes. When I left their breakout room, not only were my questions answered, but I was also able to clarify things for them as well and get to know them a bit better (e.g. Elane’s appreciation for Winnie the Pooh). 

I also love SSP because of the random moments that come with such a diverse group. Like when Umran “parallelogram” – rolled Dr. A. with the iconic song “I am a parallelogram”. Seeing Dr. A.’s confused reaction and belief that he had made a mistake really made my Learning Block memorable.

Yes, it’s intense when you feel like you’re being thrown into the deep end of the pool when trying to absorb college-level material. Yes, it’s frustrating when you can’t figure out the syntax error in your Python code. But through the problem sets, observing proposals, and social activities, and random break out room sessions, I’ve already learned so much about astrophysics, how to adapt to unexpected circumstances, and most importantly, myself. To sum up my experience with SSP so far: working with asteroids has really left an impression.

Hi I’m Jonathan, a rising senior from Irvington High School. I love riding roller coasters, playing board games, and reading books. In my spare time, I also like to watch Youtube, play games, and create math problems.