Marshall University student asks for community's help to research black holes

Marshall University junior Rae Stanly has done extensive research on whether black holes in space can create new matter. (WCHS/WVAH)

Junior Marshall University student Rae Stanley said she has always been interested in science. The young astronomer from Ona is currently majoring in physics. Stanley has conducted extensive research trying to determine if black holes in space can create new atoms.

Her research has gained attention, and is now providing her with the opportunity of a lifetime. Stanley has been invited to further her research using one of the most powerful telescopes in North America. The Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope has been used by some of the most prestigious scientists in the world. The telescope is located in Stafford, Arizona which is a city known for its clear night skies.

Stanley applied for several grants to fund her trip to use the VATT. However, her professor explained grants rarely cover undergraduate student research. Now, she is raising money to help fund her research. Her goal is to bring her data back home to West Virginia.

"I have always been interested in science," Stanley said. "I was especially interested in astronomy. We are going to be measuring the mass of the black holes in the galaxies we look at. These galaxies behave differently than the theoretical models suggest they should."

Stanley explained when black holes take in too much matter they shoot out other particles. If this matter collides with other space matter it could create new atoms scientists are not yet aware of.

"If we get results out of it, it could have major implications in astrophysics in general. Even if the results are not what I think they are, it will still provide information about the processes we're looking at."

Physics and astronomy professor Jon Saken said Stanley's research is above and beyond typical undergraduate work.

"To have the opportunity to use this is very special and rare for someone with her background right now," Jon Saken said. "She had a good idea. In science, all it takes is one good idea. I hope this inspires other students from West Virginia that there is no reason to dream small. We can do real science here. Anything you can imagine we can do."

Saken said her research is beneficial to Marshall University's science department and the state of West Virginia. Stanley hopes to raise $5,000 total for the research trip. If she meets her goal she will stay in Stafford for three full nights to research galaxies more than six billion light years away.

If you would like to donate to Rae Stanley's project and learn more about her findings click here.

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