Student Space Explorers Make Real Discoveries

Rachel Freed, co-founder and the President of the Institute for Student Astronomical Research.

Contributing Writer
Walt Pickut
Martz-Kohl Observatory Board of Directors

This month the Martz-Kohl Observatory welcomes special guest speaker Rachel Freed. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and the Martz-Kohl Astronomical Observatory wants to help it spread.

As co-founder and the President of the Institute for Student Astronomical Research (, Rachel has guided high school student scientists across the country in publishing 150 scientific research papers in astronomy, including about 500 student and professional coauthors.

Any student or teacher with an interest in science, and astronomy in particular, is invited to come to the Martz-Kohl Observatory on Wednesday evening, May 18, at 7:30 to hear and talk to Rachel on the observatory’s big screen. Learn about the exciting and original research being done by students and teachers just like them.

As Rachel says, “Astronomy captures the imagination as few other disciplines has in all of human history. It’s important because it’s the study of the universe in which we exist and an attempt to understand our place within it. Also, if students can learn to do research in astronomy, including learning how to critically analyze data, as well as how to communicate science, they will be better able to apply these skills in general, and that’s critical for an educated society.”

Teachers and parents will learn that Rachel Freed is making a remarkable impact in astronomy and education. She will describe her journey from a high school teacher with a passionate fascination with astronomy to a more-than-full-time professional astronomer. She is now a leader in double star astrometry research programs and edits the Journal of Double Star Observations (JDSO).

“I have been interested in both astronomy and education for more than two decades. I’m fortunate to get to work in the intersection of these two interests,” Rachel says. At Martz-Kohl she will also detail the research underway by people in her research programs, and the new research opportunities created for students by the growth of access to global telescope networks (Las Cumbres Observatory and Skynet).

Rachel has a B.S. degree in Biology and an M.S. in Neuroscience, is currently working on a PhD in astronomy education at Edith Cowan University, Australia and is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, working in Astronomy Education and Evaluation.

Come to the Martz-Kohl Observatory Wednesday, May 18, 2022 at 7:30pm, to meet Rachel virtually on our high-resolution, conference screen and join in our always lively Q&A after her talk. Later, if the weather cooperates, we offer tours and viewing opportunities through the big telescopes. Friends from far away are invited to join and interact by Zoom. Simply go to MKO never charges admission, but contributions at the door or online help us continue serving our public.

Spectacular Show Predicted

Comet SW3 has been falling apart and strewing its orbit with debris for nearly 30 years as it circles the sun once every 5.4 years. This year astronomers predict that Earth may pass through that debris stream on the night of May 30-31. If it does, we might see the most spectacular meteor shower in centuries, producing as many as 1,400 brilliant shooting stars per hour, peaking about 1:00 a.m. However, like all “weather” forecasts, prediction is not a guarantee. Heads up!

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Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.