• IPAC

Summer Visit - 2013 - They Might Be Giants

The summer visit to Caltech is 3-4 days long and is the only time during the year of work when all the participants on the team come together in person to work intensively on the data. Generally, each educator may bring up to two students to the summer visit that are paid for by NITARP, and they may raise funds to bring two more. The teams work at Caltech; the summer visit typically includes a half-day tour of JPL, which is a favorite site for group photos. Reload to see a different set of quotes.

The "They Might Be Giants" team came to visit in August 2013. The core team educators attended, plus 6 students.


  • [student:] My mental image of an astronomer before this trip was just a person in the woods with telescope looking at planets in viewing parties. After, I learned how they're actually pretty funny people who get to work in amazing observatories worldwide and see things that no one else gets to see first. I also didn't really think astronomy was a big part of science, but seeing how everything was interrelated at JPL and Mt. Wilson and just looking around the Caltech campus made me realize how central it actually is. I want to be an engineer, and this just made me want to be the kind of engineer that makes space robots to research planets and stars.
  • But for me as a teacher, I am going to use this data base and some of what we did to do a better job of teaching stellar evolution ... especially as it relates to hydrogen core, hydrogen shell, and helium core burners. We will try to do some similar things in class that we did this summer ... how to use a light curve, how to use a periodogram to find periods, etc. This will help bring some practicality to astronomical theory.
  • [student:] Yes, this did change my thoughts about astronomers! I never expected astronomers to be lively, funny, and talkative, while maintaining a mind of a genius!
  • [student:] I also observed that [our astronomers] did not always know the answers..sometimes they were as lost in what the data was saying and where our research was going as the rest of us. Scientists don't always know the answers...I think the most impactful thing that I heard was "When scientists know what they're doing, they need to stop. When engineers don't know what they're doing, they need to stop."
  • [student:] Astronomers (and scientists in general) often don't find the results they want. In fact, we found almost no correlation between most of the elements we used (the star's amplitude, radius, surface gravity, etc). But finding no correlation is just as important as finding a correlation because it opens a window to new questions, such as -- why was there no correlation?

Summer Visit - 2013 - They Might Be Giants