Katrina Wiechmann Presents Research at Symposium

Study examines the motion of Barnard’s Star from images obtained at Randolph College’s Winfree Observatory.  


Katrina Wiechmann ’09 presented, “Finding the Proper Motion of Barnard’s Star from Images Obtained at Winfree Observatory” at the Symposium for Artists & Scholars on April 17, 2009 at Randolph College.

Wiechmann conducted the research project with her faculty mentor, Tom Michalik, professor of physics, while an undergraduate student at Randolph College.

An abstract of the project follows...

Stars of the night sky are generally considered to be fixed points, not changing noticeably over generations of observations. While most stars seem to appear in the same place year after year, some move noticeably, the best example being Barnard’s Star. Barnard’s Star is closer to Earth than any other star except Proxima Centauri and appears to move across the sky faster than any other star. Proper motion is the change in apparent location caused by relative motion of our solar system and the star in question. Using the astrometric capabilities of the MIRA software, along with precise positional information for reference stars from the Tycho satellite star catalogue, the position of Barnard’s Star is computed relative to reference stars. We calibrated a series of images of Barnard’s Star taken in the Winfree Observatory between 2001 and 2008 to independently determine how the coordinates of Barnard’s Star change over time.

The Student Symposium of Artists and Scholars provides Randolph College students from all classes and disciplines the opportunity to present the results of their research, scholarship, and creative work to the entire College community and beyond.

The two-day symposium, modeled after a typical academic conference, features oral presentations of student research, readings of creative work, musical performances, and exhibitions of student artwork. The symposium also includes a poster session, reception and a keynote address from a noteworthy academic speaker.

Learn more at www.randolphcollege.edu/sas