GirlsDay 2018: 'What's left when a star burns out?'

News | April 12, 2018

Bee ASTRON in Dwingeloo, high tech company and member of Innovatiecluster Drachten, receives astronomer Samayra Ray fifty girls. Her message: "Join companies so you can choose what you really like."

,,I thought mathematics was the best subject in secondary school, but I only had a 6.4 for it in my exam'', Straal tells the girls. In other words, choose what you like. ,,After my master's degree at the University of Amsterdam, I thought, now I'm going to work and earn good money for a nice car. But that turned out differently. I was so fascinated by astronomy that I wanted to do research.” She is now doing this at ASTRON, where she is trying to answer the question: what remains when a star has burned out? The girls listen with interest as Straal explains what her research looks like in practice. How she uses a telescope, how she looks at the sky and what she does when she finds something new. "My research so far has yielded more questions than answers, but that's part of doing research!"

On the way to the radio telescope, they meet an enthusiastic girl group. ,,The acts are especially fun'', says Lisa. ,,I thought it would be boring just sitting and listening to stories, but we soldered ourselves and made things with the 3D pen!'' Mauran betrays that without GirlsDay would not soon come into contact with technology. ,,I want to be a doctor, so I'm busy with completely different things. But I really like what I see today.”

Astronomical Clock

In the 'wheelhouse' of the radio telescope, once the largest in the world, Sigrid Witteveen and Ria Hermelink explain what you can do with it. They volunteer at CAMRAS, the foundation that runs the radio telescope, and have the girls listen to a pulsar. A pulsar is the final stage of a star spinning very fast and emitting electromagnetic radiation. This radiation is observed on Earth in the form of fast pulses. These stars are also called astronomical clocks. Hermelink operates the telescope so that it rotates slowly in search of a pulsar. ,,Yes, there it is.'' We hear a kind of heartbeat, very regularly. "This signal is very old and broadcast from the time when the Egyptians built their pyramids." What do we learn from this? Witteveen: “Through pulsars we learn a lot about gravity and we can check whether Einstein is right with his theory. And thanks to pulsars, we can see how spacetime moves and that way we learn something about the origin of the universe."

female role model

Maaike and Nora are excited about GirlsDay. ,,That should be more often!'' And whether they will study technology after today? ,,No, I'm not going to do anything in technology'', Nora says honestly. “But I really like it today!” This is an advantage for these girls, but according to Straal, many girls and their parents still have prejudices about technology. “They lack female role models. Technique would be boring with a lot of math or whole days behind a computer screen or in a white coat in a lab. I show them today that it is attractive and surprising.” As ambassador of VHTO, the initiator of GirlsDay and the national knowledge agency for more girls and women in technology, she thinks a special girls day about technology is a good thing. ,,The funny thing is that most girls don't think about technology for a study or career. It just doesn't occur to them. That is why you should actually start showing what you can do with technology even earlier. And that's more than you think, because working in technology often also means learning something about other cultures. ASTRON employs people of many different nationalities. That makes working here extra fun!"

GirlsDay 2018

ASTRON opened its doors in Drenthe and photonis and VDH presented themselves at Philips in Drachten. In Fryslân we went BD and Philips in Drachten open for the girls. A total of 750 girls from Drenthe and Fryslân participated during GirlsDay 2018 acquainted with the technology in our companies. GirlsDay is an initiative of VHTO and is held every year throughout the Netherlands. Companies and schools that want to participate next year can register via the VHTO website.