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Harrison High Junior Competes In international Engineering, Science Fair

Keon Azar
Keon Azar Photo Credit: Provided

HARRISON, N.Y. --  Harrison High School junior Keon Azar was chosen to present his HHS Science Research work at this year’s prestigious Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles, Calif., on Sunday, May 14.

Azar's topic in the Physics and Astronomy category is “Evaluation of Exoplanet Detection Method: The Limits of Current Knowledge," according to a release from Harrison Central School District.

“I have always been interested in the universe and its workings,” said Azar. “I am a really curious and inquisitive person and am drawn to challenging and complicated information. While the field of astrophysics is vast, I love every subtopic within it."

"Reading tons of books and watching videos of other physicists, such as Stephen Hawking, further motivated me to try to make my own progress in the field," Azar continued. "My mentor (Sarah Brown an astrophysics major at Brown University) and I noticed gaps in knowledge in the field of exoplanet research weren’t explicitly identified, so I conducted my specific study to try to solve that problem.”

According to Azar and his study, an exoplanet is a planet - like Earth and Jupiter - except outside our solar system. The field of exoplanet research, he explained is relatively new, first booming in the early 1990s when the Hubble Space Telescope made the discovery that all stars in the Milky Way galaxy have at least one exoplanet orbiting them. However, it is difficult to detect them and analyze them with current methods.

Through two methods of analysis – an analysis of scatter plots and a statistical analysis using a Poisson Distribution -- Azar concluded that current technology is incapable of detecting exoplanets with masses less than 1 Mjup (mass of exoplanets is measured relative to the mass of Jupiter), masses greater than 10Mjup and exoplanets that are greater than 150,000,000km away from their parent star, the release said.

“By drawing these universal conclusions, it provides astrophysicists developing new technology with a guide of what areas need to be addressed and fixed in the new technologies of the detection methods,” Azar explained. “The main goal is for this research to encourage the discovery of exoplanets that have not been previously discovered, which would be a big step for the field as a whole.”

Azar placed in the top 12 at the Westchester Science and Engineering Fair to advance to the Intel International Competition, where his research will be compared with those students from around the globe, according to the release.

“It had been a dream of mine to go to Intel, one I believed was unachievable as the competition is insane. I always looked up to it as an outstanding experience that I wanted to be a part of but I never thought that I would ever go,” said Azar. “So when they called my name I was astonished! It was especially heartening to see all of my friends and teachers so excited and happy for me."

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