Connolly Introduces High Schoolers to Hubble Space Telescope

Natalia Connolly, back left, with Jeff Rodriguez and his physics students.
Natalia Connolly, back left, with Jeff Rodriguez and his physics students.

Assistant Professor of Physics Natalia Connolly recently participated in a summer outreach program with four high school students and their physics teacher, Jeff  Rodriguez, at Anderson High School in Cincinnati, Ohio.


Connolly’s outreach was funded by a $15,000 research grant she received in January from the Hubble Space Telescope Cycle E/PO Grant Program.  The project entailed analyzying data from the Hubble Space Telescope looking for strong gravitational lenses.  According to Connolly, gravitational lensing is a phenomenon predicted by Einstein, whereupon any massive object will bend light -- very similar to the way an optical lens bends light.  The more massive an object the more pronounced the effect.   The students, Mr. Rodriguez, and Connolly processed the data and found gravitational lenses created by massive galaxies.  The students are now in the process of creating a website of the lens images.

Connolly connected with Rodriguez several years ago through her husband, who is an alumnus of Anderson High School. After becoming a PI on a Hubble strong lensing grant, Connolly sought out Rodriguez to collaborate on a sub-grant outreach program involving four enthusiastic students. “I've always considered outreach a very important part of my work.  I think any opportunity to share what I do with students is terrific -- and the younger the better.” Connolly remarked, “I find it rather unfortunate that not many high school students in this country are given a chance to try out real scientific research.”

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