International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics took students to lake Balaton
From August 2 to 10, the 13th International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics took place in Keszthely, Hungary. Estonian student Kaarel Kivisalu was awarded the silver medal of the competition.
More than 47 countries were represented at the olympiad with more than 50 teams competing.
The Estonian team was made up of
• Leonid Zinatullin (Hugo Treffner Gymnasium, 11th grade);
• Henriete Toomlaid (Pärnu Mai School, 9th grade);
• Mihkel Jakobson (Tallinn Secondary School of Science, 9th grade);
• Kaarel Kivisalu (Tallinn Secondary School of Science, 11th grade);
• Jarl Patrick Paide (Tallinn Secondary School of Science, 11th grade).
The students were supervised by Tõnis Eenmäe, Research Fellow at the Department of Stellar Physics of the UT Tartu Observatory, and Nikita Poljakov, student at the University of Bristol.
At the International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics, students have to do tasks about astronomy, which are divided between five stages. There is an observational exam which includes questions about direct observations; a planetary exam, which includes tasks for using the sky map at the planetary or stellar maps; and a data analysis exam that includes a paper- or computer-based task for analysing actual data obtained from professional astronomers. Besides that, there is a substantial theory exam which can gain the contestants up to half of all the points possible, and a team competition which was carried out as a quiz this year. One can gain 600 points in total, but supervisor Eenmäe stated that noone has ever reached that score.
Eenmäe found the difficulty level of this year’s tasks to be reasonable. „In the observational exam they had to adjust a telescope, draw Saturn and its brightest companion Titan as well as visually judge the brightness of variable stars,“ he said. In the data analysis exam the contestants calculated the distance of Nova Delphini 2013 and the parameters of an eclipsing triple star system. In the theory round they solved tasks starting from parameters observed by general relativity, and answered questions about black holes, variable stars and space instruments.
The general winner was a student from Vietnam. Our student Kaarel Kivisalu gained the silver medal with 330 points. This year, there was a new medal dividing system, and it reduced the amount of medals and certificates handed out. This is why this time, we gained less medals than expected. „But this will encourage us to perform even better,“ Eenmäe stated. Eenmäe said that the organization of the event was in favour of contestants with lots of experience. „Our group was made up of students who were relatively young and fresh, but we got very good results in the competition nonetheless,“ he added.
Other than the competition, there was also a cultural programme which included seeing the sights by the lake Balaton and Tihany peninsula. The students could also have a refreshing swim and because of the extremely hot weather, a water battle was held.
Many Hungarian institutes helped to make the olympiad happen. The most important ones were the Konkoly Observatory, the Hungarian Astronomical Association and the Ministry of Human Capacities. The Estonian delegation was funded by the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research and organized by the University of Tartu Youth Academy.
More information: Tõnis Eenmäe, Research Fellow at the UT Tartu Observatory’s Department of Stellar Physics, 737 4544, tonis.eenmae [ät] ut.ee