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Caltech Planet Finder Academy students pose in front of the Multi-Segment Integration & Test (MSIT) facility at the TMT lab on January 14, 2023 - Image credit: TMT International Observatory

Pasadena Students in Caltech's Planet Finder Academy Hold Workshop at TMT Lab

Pasadena, CA – Nineteen Caltech Planet Finder Academy high school students from across the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) recently visited the TMT Lab in Monrovia. TMT System Scientist Warren Skidmore welcomed the group and ran a special workshop for the students.

Caltech Planet Finder Academy students at TMT Lab

Warren Skidmore, TMT system scientist, and Andrew Howard, Caltech professor of astronomy, discuss the TMT project with students - Image credit: TMT International Observatory

The Caltech Planet Finder Academy outreach program is led by Andrew Howard, an outstanding exoplanet researcher and professor of astronomy at Caltech. While there is a special emphasis on exoplanet science, the Planet Finder Academy provides PUSD high school students opportunities to learn about astronomy in general and science and engineering through experiments, activities, visits and discussions. The students benefit from the area’s unique scientific and astronomical research community and have also visited JPL and Mount Wilson.

At the TMT Lab, discussions covered TMT science, engineering, the project organization and team, then Warren led the students on a tour of the TMT lab with help from Senior Telescope Controls Engineer Chris Carter. They learned about the many fabrication processes being followed and developed for TMT, and about the in-depth performance testing and quality assurance processes that are needed. Student participants also learned about science flow down, performance modeling and systems engineering. Andrew emphasized the dependence of astronomical science on the engineering undertaken to develop new instruments and facilities.

Caltech Planet Finder Academy students at TMT lab

Group work opportunity for Caltech Planet Finder Academy students at TMT lab facility. Student participants conducted research about different astronomical observatories operating worldwide - Image credit: TMT International Observatory

To finish the day, students broke into small groups and did an activity where each group investigated a major astronomical facility in the world, looking into its design, operations, capabilities, scientific achievements and site location. Each group gave a short presentation about the facility they investigated. 

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