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What are teenagers doing? The ‘Draco Kill Shot’

It’s the networking. I knew about sky watching for comets and asteroids by dedicated amateurs. I didn’t know about the background radiation monitoring. Williams Lucas conned his parents into getting appropriate radiation monitoring equipment to follow the Fukushima fallout and participate in the Radiation Network.

One day, there was a spike in the radiation readings that the local fire department and HazMat folks took as a threat.

“What exactly was going on at William’s house? After a thorough investigation, the idea that the Lucas family was engaged in some sort of illicit activities involving radioactive materials was disposed of, and in any case, the spike William’s equipment had recorded began to recede. But William was now on the case. Armed with graphs and a satellite view of his home in Huntsville, he described his year-long search for the answer. Google turned out to be the key, although he was sure that finding the answer could not be so simple as merely inserting a date into a search engine. But the method worked.”

It turned out that the radiation spike coincided with a gamma ray burst from a constellation 3.8 billion light years away detected also by an X-ray telescope in a satellite.

“Today we have amateur astronomers aiding professionals in following up exoplanet finds and networks of people doing everything from cataloguing galaxies to monitoring marine debris and studying arthropods. With the tools of citizen science proliferating, we need to ramp up public outreach to show young people what can be done with modest equipment and dedication. I noticed that William Lucas and parents Diana and Richard stayed for the entire Huntsville workshop, a reminder that public interest once triggered can become a powerful ally in our work.”

Amateur science has changed.

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