26 January, 2015


Contact: John Keller



Central Washington Schools Selected to Study Outer Solar System

SAN LUIS OBISPO — High schools and colleges from 14 Central Washington communities have been selected to participate in a five-year citizen science astronomy research project to study the outer solar system. Schools from Oroville to Goldendale will join a total of 60 communities stretching across the western United States to form the Research and Education Collaborative Occultation Network (RECON).


Funded by the National Science Foundation, RECON is led by planetary scientists John Keller from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Calif. and Marc Buie of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. “The goal of RECON is to determine the sizes, densities and other characteristics of newly discovered Kuiper Belt Objects orbiting the sun beyond Neptune,” Buie said. “Because these objects have been relatively undisturbed since their formation, they hold important clues about the origins of our solar system.”


During the fall, Keller and Buie traveled more than 3,000 miles through Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona and California.  This week, the two scientists announced the communities that will receive telescopes, cameras and training to join this five-year research effort. The RECON network in Washington will stretch along Highway 97 from Oroville to Wenatchee and follow Highway 82 from Ellensburg to Pasco. Goldendale represents the southernmost site in the state.


“The project design requires telescopes spaced every 30 miles stretching from the Canadian border down to the Mexican border,” Keller said. “We’ve been thrilled by the extremely positive responses from all of the students, teachers and community members we’ve met.”


Oroville science teacher Ed Booker said, “The team and students of Oroville Junior and Senior High Schools are looking forward to being part of an actual science research project by providing data and participating as actual scientists through this program.”


“We are most excited about being on the cutting edge of space discovery. Being a part of history and understanding our outer universe are very exciting,” said Nikki Medved, Gear-Up coordinator at Brewster High School.


Central Washington University will also participate in the project. “For CWU, this is the opportunity for pre-service teachers and other interested undergraduates to work with high school students on a science research project,” said Physics Professor Bruce Palmquist.


Telescopes and cameras will be delivered to these communities over the next month. During the spring, representatives from each community will receive training at workshops held in Kingman, Ariz., and Pasco, Wash. By early May, the network will be fully prepared to conduct up to eight coordinated observation campaigns of Kuiper Belt Objects each year through 2019.


For a full list of schools involved in the project, visit the RECON website at  Community members interested in joining local teams on this project are encouraged to contact






RECON – the Research and Education Cooperative Occultation Network – is a citizen science research project aimed at exploring the outer solar system. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Astronomical Sciences, this project involves teachers, students, amateur astronomers, and community members from across the Western United States in coordinated telescope observations to measure the sizes of objects from a region called the Kuiper Belt.


Washington RECON Communities: Oroville, Tonasket, Okanogan, Brewster, Chelan/Manson, Entiat, Wenatchee, Ellensburg, Yakima, Toppenish/White Swan, Pasco, Goldendale


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