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IT taps into citizen science with youth astronomy initiative in Pampilhosa da Serra

on 21-10-2020

... IT researchers tested a new astronomy concept for the first time in Portugal, together with a group of students in Pampilhosa da Serra. (see more)

Researchers at IT in Aveiro, Domingos Barbosa and Bruno Coelho, partnered with the Municipality of Pampilhosa da Serra, in Coimbra, to launch “Ciber-Cosmos: o céu à distância de um clique”, a two-week astronomy workshop designed for secondary school students.

The initiative, carried out in August, allowed students to learn from science and technology experts and to acquire basic astronomy skills using the Unistellar eVscope — a smart, compact and user-friendly digital telescope that offers unprecedented opportunities for deep-sky observation.

“This is probably the first continuous application of this equipment in a pedagogical and citizen-science context, in a pandemic context, and it is something agencies are currently betting on”, Domingos Barbosa explained.

“Instead of having a network of half a dozen very large telescopes, they take advantage of these small instruments now scattered around the world, many of which are operated by amateur stargazers. When they all come together, they can provide valuable information, at a very low cost, but with a big impact”.

Presented at Web Summit 2019, the eVscope features an integrated Wi-Fi system that connects to mobile devices within a 50-meter radius, allowing users to remotely operate the telescope and download the images through an app on their smartphones and tablets — especially useful at a time of social distancing.

Unlike conventional telescopes, the eVscope delivers clear images of galaxies, nebulae, comets and other objects in crisp and colourful detail, thanks to its digital sensor and advanced processing software.

Bruno Coelho, who coordinated the students’ work, said: “They were all very excited about the telescope. As soon as they received the images live on their smartphones, they wanted to share them with friends and relatives”.

In partnership with the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute) in California, Unistellar allows users to join a citizen-science community, where anyone can contribute to astronomical discoveries by sharing their images in real-time with scientific observation campaigns.

Pampilhosa da Serra, a certified Dark Sky Reserve, was the chosen location for this project as its territory has “the best skies in the country to observe the stars and the universe”, according to the IT researchers.

Photo: A group of three students at Penedos de Fajão, Pampilhosa da Serra, observe the Milky Way and, in the lower right corner, a satellite (intermittent line).

Mário Silveirinha receives two fellowships for breakthrough research in nanophotonics

on 20-10-2020

... Mário Silveirinha was named Fellow of the APS and the OSA, becoming one of the most distinguished researchers at IT. (see more)

Mário Silveirinha joined the ranks of Fellow in two American societies — the American Physical Society (APS) and the Optical Society (OSA) — for his pioneering contributions to the theory of physics, metamaterials and plasmonics.

These fellowships honour years of cutting-edge research in nanophotonics, a branch of optics which seeks to control light and light-matter interactions at the sub-wavelengths scale.

“Both fellowships acknowledge several years’ work focusing on electromagnetic wave propagation in metamaterials”, said the researcher.

Metamaterials are artificial materials engineered to have properties that may not be found in nature.

“They are nanostructured materials, designed so that when they propagate they have unusual properties, different from usual materials. That was perhaps my biggest contribution to this field, and that which was recognized by the two societies”, he added.

Each year, both the OSA and the APS elect no more than 0.5% of total members for their Fellowship programs.

The APS represents 54,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories and industry in the United States and throughout the world.

It created its fellowship program to recognize those who made advances in physics through original research and publication, or innovative contributions in the application of physics to science and technology.

For the OSA, this recognition follows a highly competitive election process, acknowledging candidates “for serving with distinction in the advancement of optics and photonics and making distinguished contributions to education, research, engineering, business and society”.

Since its founding in 1916, the OSA has been the world’s leading champion for optics and photonics. The organisation currently services 395,000 customers and 23,000 members from more than 100 countries.

In addition to these achievements, Mário Silveirinha is also Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) since 2015.