By Ali Richardson, Staff Writer
The International Astronomical Search Collaboration created on the campus of Hardin-Simmons University continues to grow and make more discoveries. It was created by Dr. Patrick Miller, professor of mathematics, and one of his students in 2006. Since then, it has become a program used all around the world.
“We created it [the IASC] here in this office, an undergraduate student and I built it, in 2006. It’s grown over the years to about 2,000 schools in 80 countries. That was the last academic year, this year we expect to have about 3,000 schools [on the program]. It’s really a program not for the students but for the teachers, and we train the teachers on how to do it, and it’s their job then to present it to their students in the classroom. And they do that in a variety of ways at a variety of levels,” Dr. Miller said.
Dr. Miller explained what the purpose of the IASC and what they do internationally and in Abilene.
“It [the IASC] is an international outreach program for students to make original discoveries of asteroids and other small objects in the solar system. We also have grants through other organizations besides NASA. We do provide internet telescope time to schools around the world; we have 102 schools that do that. Those schools are able to log in to our webpage and are able to take images with those telescopes. We also have something locally, at the Lee Center of the Boys and Girls Club, called video walls. What we have done there is build four one-month sessions for the kids at the Lee Center on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, over the past year. Currently were doing [a session]on weather. And we will do another [session] at the end of this month on oceans,” Dr. Miller said.
Although the IASC had been attempted before, Dr. Miller successfully created the program once they acquired the proper equipment. Since then, the IASC has made 1,500 discoveries in space.
“I thought [the IASC]was a neat idea. It had been tried in a number of years prior in the early 90’s at UC Berkeley. And at that time, they didn’t have the computer technology, the digital camera technology or the inexpensive large aperture telescope to be able to do this. By the time we started this in 2006, that had all changed. We just took those resources and put them together to build the program,” Dr. Miller said.
Dr. Miller explained the partnership and the growth the IASC has experienced. “Now the program has grown. We work with the University of Hawaii and the University of Arizona. University of Hawaii currently has the world’s largest survey telescope and camera for finding asteroids. So we get data from them every month and distribute that out to the participating groups,” Dr. Miller.
Dr. Miller also has an asteroid that was named after him. It was discovered in 1978, but never named. It was asteroid number 4984, which means it was one of the first 5,000 asteroids discovered. “You can’t name [asteroids] after yourself, somebody has to propose it. We also have [an asteroid]for Julius Olsen. Julius Olsen was an astronomer physicist at Hardin-Simmons for about 40 years. So, I proposed they name an asteroid in his honor,” Dr. Miller said.