Luther junior Heinke selected to research Messier 23 stars during summer

Messier 23, also known as M23, is an open cluster in the constellation Sagittarius. Madilyn Heinke, Luther College junior of Seymour, Wisconsin, is researching and observing Eclipsing Binary stars and Long Period Variable stars in M23 as part of her summer research at the college.

Heinke, the daughter of Jon and Melody Heinke, of Seymour, is a 2015 graduate of Seymour Community High School. She is majoring in physics at Luther.

"The idea that most fascinates me with my research is that there are so many things that have not been discovered or proven. This summer I get to be a part of searching for answers to questions that are far beyond any one generation of people," said Heinke.

An Eclipsing Binary star is a system with two stars that orbit one another and during orbit either cover a portion or the entirety of the other star. Long Period Variable stars are stars that have a slow visible shift in their brightness. Heinke is sifting through 15 years of data that has been collected at Luther to determine what can be understood about these different kinds of stars.

Heinke is working with Jeff Wilkerson, Luther professor of physics, associate dean and director of faculty development, on this ongoing project.

"I have truly gotten closer to the physics faculty and the physics students here at Luther. We are a small group to begin with but spending the summer with them allows me to get to know them outside of the classroom" said Heinke.

The group's collaboration is funded through a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The Student-Faculty Summer Research projects provide students an opportunity to research topics of interest alongside Luther faculty. This program is one of a wide selection of experiential learning opportunities at Luther intended to deepen the learning process and that are part of Luther's academic core.

The results of the project will be presented at Luther's Student Research Symposium in 2018.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,150, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college's website:

{ Return to News from the Luther Physics Department for more posts. }

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