Euro-Asian Astronomical Society

The First (Experimental)
International Astronomy Olympiad


[Image of BTA, winter] The First (Experimental) International Astronomy Olympiad was carried out by Euro-Asian Astronomical Society and took place at the Special Astrophysical Observatory of Russian Academy of Sciences (SAO RAS) in North Caucasus on November 1-8, 1996. Pupils representing five nationalities in Russia (winners of all-Russian national olympiad) and Swedish-Finnish team from Stockholm participated. Contacts with several more countries had been taken, but it was impossible to find financial support for participants from these this year.

Professional astronomers were involved into the composition of exercises on astronomy and their checking. Olympiad consised of three separate tours. Exercises included tasks and questions on different branches of astronomy and astrophysics which are quite availible for schoolchildren. According to the Statutes the competitors were divided in two age groups: grades 8-10 and grades 11-12.

The following olympic problems were proposed for the participants on the theoretical part:

Grades 8-10

1. Why is it sometimes better to use a small telescope in orbit around the Earth than it is to use a large telescope on a mountain top?

2. A thick black fly has dotten onto the object lens of a 5 cm telescope. What will an observer looking to the Moon through the telescope see?

3. Explain why we see more meteors from midnight to dawn than from evening to midnight.

4. The 12 Zodiacal signs are equally extended on the ecliptic. In which of them does the Sun lie in for the shortest period?

5. On 1 cm2 of Pluto's surface fall approximately 10,000 photons per second from a star of the fifth magnitude. How many photons would fall on a detector from a star of 20m during half an hour, if BTA at the Earth is used (the diameter of the main mirror is 6 m)?

6. The sun has a parallax of ps = 8".8, and a star with the same absolute brightness - p* = 0".022. Is it possible to observe the star at night sky visually?

7. The moon set in St.Petersburg (60 North, 30 East) yesterday just at midnight. In what region of the Earth will there be an opportunity to observe a total solar eclipse sometime next week?

8. A spaceship landed on an asteroid 2.2 km in diameter with an average density of 2.2 g/cm3. The asteroid is slowly rotating. The cosmonauts decided to travel along the equator of the asteroid in a rover in 2.2 hours. Will it be possible for them to do such a thing? If the answer is negative, why? If the answer is positive, what do they take into account?

Grades 11-12

1. Why might some stars appear double in blue light through they could not be resolved in red light?

2. Why can radio astronomers observe during the day, whereas optical astronomers are (for the most part) limited to nighttime observing?

3. Why is it better for some purposes to use a medium size telescope on a mountain instead of a telescope on a spaceship at low orbit near the Earth?

4. What are the reasons why the Hubble Space Telescope is able to observe fainter objects than we can study from the ground?

5. The moon set in St.Petersburg (60 North, 30 East) yesterday just at midnight. In what region of the Earth will there be an opportunity to observe a total solar eclipse sometime next week?

6. Altair (a Aquila) has a parallax of p = 0".198, proper motion m = 0".658/year, radial velocity Vr = -26 km/s and visible brightness m = 0m.89. When and what would be the minimum distance of Altair to the Sun? Also find the brightness of Altair at that point.

7. Recently the Ten-meter Keck telescope began to operate on Mauna Kea (Hawaii), where the diameter of stellar images may be as small as 0".3. Can you evaluate the limiting stellar magnitude for visual observation with this telescope?

On the practical part problems were the following:

Grades 8-12

Paper with a drown circle and table of maximal elongations of Mercury and Venus had been done for participants.
1. The figure show a circle, that is the orbit of Earth. By using data from the table, draw orbits of Mercury and Venus.
2. Estimate radii of the orbits (in a.u.).

Table: Greatest Elongations of Mercury and Venus.
Mercury: 1989-1990 Venus: 1983-1990
Date East West Date East West
8 Jan 89 19   15 Jun 83 45  
18 Feb 89   26 4 Nov 83   47
30 Apr 89 21   21 Jan 85 47  
18 Jun 89   23 12 Jun 85   46
28 Aug 89 27   26 Aug 86 46  
10 Oct 89   18 15 Jan 87   47
22 Dec 89 20   2 Apr 88 46  
1 Feb 90   25 22 Aug 88   46
13 Apr 90 20   8 Nov 89 47  
31 May 90   25 30 Mar 90   46
11 Aug 90 27  
24 Sep 90   18
5 Dec 90 21  

As for observational part, its problem was non-competitional:

Grades 8-12

1. At what time did you see Venus on Saturday, November 2, 1996...
2. ... and at what angular distance from the Sun?

Text of all these problems is available in Russian too.

[Image of BTA, summer] In immediate connection to the competitions, an autumn school for astrophysics took place at SAO. The lectures were mostly in Russian but they were translated into English by interpreters. Activities included excursions to the lagest in Euro-Asia 6-m BTA telescope and the largest in the world radio telescope RATAN-600 during observations. The students also had the opportunity to expose plates with the Kazan' University 40 cm telescope, with the kind assistance of an astronomer whenever needed. They could borrow strong binoculars and amateur telescopes.

The Olympiads and the autumn schools were a very great experience for the students. The next Olympiad is already being planned and proposally to be preceded by national competitions in the participating countries.

Those who are interested to get further information about these activities are welcome to contact organizers in English or Russian.


Winners of the First (Experimental) International Astronomy Olympiad:

I prize:

Chilingarian Igor (Moscow)
Tuntsov Artiom (Moscow)
Yevdokimov Nikolai (Moscow)
Zhuravlyov Vyacheslav (Moscow)

II prize:

Andersson Andreas (Stockholm, Sweden)
Bondar Valentin (Kirov reg., Russia)
Mazunin Serge (St.Petersburg, Russia)
Podnebesov Alexey (Orenburg, Russia)
Pudeyev Andry (Nizhnij Novgorod, Russia)

III prize:

Ahlqvist Erika (Stockholm, Sweden)
Karjalainen Eeva-Liisa (Stockholm, Sweden)
Pavliuchenko Serge (Ukhta, Russia)
Shakhvorostova Nadezhda (Krasnodar, Russia)
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1996: Biology, Chemistry, Informatics, Mathematics, Physics
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© Dr. Michael G. Gavrilov,
Chairman of the Olympic Coordinating Council.

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