- Associated Press - Monday, January 4, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - When Ian Bowyer dreams, he turns to the stars.

The 16-year-old Indianapolis student and space enthusiast has been invited to deliver a second lecture at the Link Observatory Space Science Institute in February after giving one in October. Being invited to speak more than once at the Martinsville observatory is an honor few people have received.

Link handpicks a few guest speakers, including a few knowledgeable teens, to give lectures throughout the year.

“I don’t think I’d ever given a presentation to that many people before,” Bowyer said of speaking to a crowd of about 100 people, which ranged from children to the elderly. “I wasn’t nervous before, but when I was getting up to the podium, there was a spike in my nervousness.

“That went away when I started giving my lecture.”

Bowyer has an aptitude for mathematics and space that’s rare for someone his age, said Greg McCauley, executive director and chief executive officer of the Link Observatory.

After doing well during his lecture in October, the observatory made the decision to invite Bowyer, who regularly attends the observatory’s public lectures, back for another talk.

“He has a remarkable level of information and intelligence about physics, specifically astrophysics, black holes and astrological discoveries,” McCauley said.

The observatory is a nonprofit organization that fosters science education and public engagement in NASA missions, astronomy and space exploration. It was the site of “important astronomical research” conducted by Indiana University from the 1950s through the mid-1980s, according to its website.

Today, the observatory fosters STEM - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - education for schools and the general public.

McCauley said allowing students like Bowyer to give lectures helps them learn the art of public speaking.

“Speaking in public, that’s a tough thing to do,” McCauley said. “There’s a lot of people who have a fear of speaking in public.”

Bowyer, a student at Hoosier Academies, an Indianapolis-based charter school, gave his first lecture on how scientists discover new planets. He focused on the methodology researchers use to find planets orbiting foreign stars.

Bowyer said planets either block the light from a central star, signifying their presence, or cause a slight wobble in the light generated by the central star. To him, “it was simply what I was interested in at that period.”

The next lecture Bowyer presents will center on rogue planets, which are those that aren’t orbiting a central star.

“It is kind the exoticness of the whole situation: The fact that you can have planets floating around in interstellar space with no stars in the immediate vicinity,” he said.

Dynelle Pelsy-Bowyer, Ian’s mother, said she knew her son had an aptitude for math early on, she just didn’t know it would go this far.

“When he was really young, it wasn’t science so much as patterns and shapes and all the kind of visual things,” she said. “I remember him being very good at making interesting things out of blocks and being good with puzzles.

“‘There’s math talent here,’ is what I thought when I saw him doing things like that.’ “

Ian, a junior who is in his second year of advanced placement calculus, is eyeing college courses for next year. Pelsy-Bowyer said Ian needs to keep going with calculus because it’ll serve him well in the future.

Ian hopes to become a scientist and discover planets outside of our solar system and search for signs of life beyond Earth.

McCauley said Ian is off to a great start.

“Discovering exoplanets is a complicated issue and he discussed the methods we’re currently using - he did well in explaining it in a way a layman could understand,” McCauley said. “I learned a lot about it as well, and I’m the director of the Link Observatory.”


Source: The Indianapolis Star, https://indy.st/1Oz6RMX


Information from: The Indianapolis Star, https://www.indystar.com

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