Girl astronomers find the sky is no limit

PENRITH High School year 10 students, Shahana Moon and Simran Kaur Dhaliwal, celebrated their top science honours by looking at the Transit of Venus through a high-powered telescope.

Shahana won The Stellar Astronomy Scholarship for Girls and Simran was named Research Australia’s National Youth Ambassador.

On June 6, both girls and three year 12 science students, Priyanka Rola, Mansirat Sandhu and Oshara Gunadasa, watched Venus crossing the sun, an almost once-in-a-century astronomical event.

The CSIRO loaned a high-powered telescope to the school for the occasion, so it was a double treat for the girls.

Shahana said she was overjoyed to win her scholarship and to see Venus at such an unusual time.

‘‘I was really surprised to get it [the scholarship],’’ she said.

‘‘But I love it and I really love having this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the Transit of Venus.’’

She said she wanted a science career, but was not sure what area to specialise in.

‘‘Science is really diverse; you can look at almost anything and explain it with science,’’ Shahana said.

‘‘We’re discovering new things all the time.’’

Simran would also like a science career.

‘‘Science fascinates me, not just because it’s part of our everyday lives; mathematics applies to that too,’’ she said.

‘‘Science is an answerer of once-unanswerable things because we go into so much depth researching things, like this telescope here.’’

Mansirat said she loved to see what made the everyday world work.

‘‘It’s really interesting to focus on things that you take for granted every day, such as the sun up there, which is the key to all life down here,’’ she said.

‘‘Science helps people too; medical research saves a lot of lives.’’

Oshara agreed.

‘‘The fact that science is so much a part of our lives is fascinating,’’ she said.

‘‘There’s so much more to learn and we may make many more discoveries in our lifetimes.’’

Priyanka said science explained the world in ways that meant we could no longer take it for granted.

‘‘Because of science we’ve discovered many things, such as why the rain falls and the ways our bodies work,’’ she said.

‘‘Everything around us works in some scientific way.’’

CSIRO scientist Lisa Harvey-Smith visited Penrith High for the occasion.

‘‘I’ve been impressed with the girls’ maturity and confidence,’’ Dr Harvey-Smith said.

‘‘They’ve asked about my career in science; the pitfalls and challenges they’re likely to face.

‘‘It’s important that we have the knowledge and skills of scientists because science and technology continue to be valuable to Australia’s economy.’’

TRANSITS OF VENUS

The Transit of Venus occurs twice, at an eight-year interval, about every 100 to 120 years.

The last transit occurred in 2004; the previous transits were in 1874 and 1882.

The next transits of Venus will occur in 2117 and 2125.

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