News from School

Is There Jet Lag On the Moon? Columbia Astronomer Connects Elementary Science with Real World Research
Posted 01/26/2017 08:04PM
Columbia Astronomy student Erin Flowers shares her research on exoplanetsHow does the study of weather help us to find life on on other planets? A visitor from Columbia University’s astronomy department helped fourth graders make connections between the principles they’re studying in science and the sophisticated research happening at a university in our own backyard.

“I like to introduce my students to real-life scientists as often as I can,” said middle school science teacher Katie Behrmann. “I want to show that scientists are real people with a variety of interests and talents, and I want students to learn about the different kinds of work that scientists pursue.”

Behrmann invited Erin Flowers, a senior at Columbia studying astronomy, to introduce her students to exoplanet exploration, or the study of planets outside the solar system. Flowers’s research involves studying the weather patterns of exoplanets, with the goal of determining what kinds of climates could sustain life.

The students, who studied weather and atmosphere this year, were full of questions about the methods scientists use to study such far-off celestial bodies and the possibility of life on other planets. Flowers explained that if we were able to view the Earth from a planet 2 million light years away, we would be seeing what life was like here 2 million years ago.

“Is there jet lag on the moon?” one student asked, noting the tremendous distance between Earth and the moon. Flowers responded that, ultimately, yes, that was likely to be true.

“Children are naturally curious,” Flowers said, who decided to pursue a career in science when she was in middle school herself. “I want to show them that they can use that curiosity and their passions to do great things for the world.”

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