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2019 News Koop Summer Outreach
September 03, 2019 : OHIO Chillicothe professor hopes to encourage students through outreach


Dr. Michael Koop, Lecturer of Physics at Ohio University Chillicothe, spent a considerable amount of time this summer participating in outreach activities throughout the communities we serve. Community outreach is essential to the mission of the University – to provide educational and cultural opportunities for all Ohioans in the South Central Ohio geographical region.


On July 19 and 31, Koop attended the Pickaway County Libraries in Circleville and Ashville, respectively, giving interactive presentations on black holes to folks of all ages. These presentations not only focused on what we know about black holes, but how the scientific method can be applied to learn about these extremely strange objects.


Because black holes themselves do not emit light, they can only be detected from how they affect their surroundings. The same way that wind can be detected based on the motion of swaying tree branches, black holes can be detected from their gravitational pull on nearby stars and gas clouds.  


Based on the motions of these neighbor stars and how gases falling into the black hole are heated, different properties of black holes can be measured. In the past few years, new scientific advances have allowed astronomers to observe gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of space and time, that result from the collisions of black holes, and just this year the first direct image of the shadow of a black hole was developed by linking together radio telescopes from around the world. “Of course, a favorite question asked is what would happen if someone fell into a black hole,” mentioned Koop.  “The short answer is that it wouldn’t go well for them.”


In addition, Koop also organized and led some space-based activities at the Logan Valley Girl Scout Day Camp alongside his former student, Mary-Beth Stanley, who was the assistant director of the camp. The camp was held the week of July 22 with the theme “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”


During one of the days of the camp, Koop led outdoor activities modeling the scale of the solar system, mapping out how our view of the night sky changes due to the Earth rotating on its axis and orbiting the Sun, and how we measure the properties of stars, highlighting key discoveries and breakthroughs made by women in astronomy.  


“I’m honored to have the opportunity to share these scientific discoveries, especially with young prospective scientists,” Koop commented. “Helping students work through how the scientific method is applied from an early age will encourage them to pursue and excel in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.”


Koop is a 2015 graduate of The Pennsylvania State University with a PhD in Physics focusing on gravitational wave astronomy. He has organized and presented at many different public and student science outreach events for more than seven years, including the OHIO Chillicothe Solar Eclipse Viewing Party in 2017, science demonstrations at the annual OHIO Chillicothe Trick-or-Treat event, and working directly with students at local Chillicothe schools.


Koop continues to prepare new scientific outreach events, including developing a new public lecture series on campus called “Expansive Ideas”, for the Chillicothe and surrounding communities.