Astronomer and NASA hopeful Richard Camuccio ’16 first remembers noticing the stars and looking through a telescope at the moon when he was 6 years old in Telford, Pa. He’s come a long way since then.
Among his current projects: “Grundy 2.0—it involves restoring and improving Grundy Observatory,” he says. The observatory serves students, faculty and the community as they peer across the final frontier. Camuccio’s efforts are helping to bring this vital resource into the digital era.
He has created an improved “warm room”—a space separate from the telescope—that literally stays warm; with the roof open, the telescope and its operators are exposed to the elements. Essential for long-running, year-round sessions at Grundy, the room now has wireless Internet access and includes a kitchen, library and computer station.
“Next on the list is adding computer stations in the classroom for community visitors to learn about various astronomy subjects with an interactive approach,” Camuccio says. “I’m hoping to get it all accomplished before I graduate.”
“I hope to pursue my doctorate in astronomy in order to become an astronaut,” he says. “I’d like to complete research involving planets and solar systems, and I intend to place my application in the queue for future NASA missions into space.”
Camuccio contributed to a paper and worked with Associate Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Grundy Observatory Andrea Lommen on researching the timing of pulsars, rapidly spinning neutron stars. He worked with Visiting Professor Kassie Martin-Wells on a project to determine the range of sizes an asteroid could be so that any life on the asteroid would survive impact. He spent a week with other F&M students at the National Undergraduate Research Observatory near Flagstaff, Ariz., examining orbiting brown dwarfs in other star systems. Most recently, as a Hackman Scholar this past summer, Camuccio worked with Assistant Professor of Physics Amy Lytle, researching laser light.
“We were, and are still this semester, studying an optical phenomenon known as ‘second harmonic generation,’ where laser light is converted from one color to another,” he explains. “Our experiment involves using backward-propagating ultrafast pulses to probe and control this process. We are learning more about how to achieve SHG more efficiently. Among several other applications, SHG microscopy is used to analyze biological tissue like tendons and muscle fibers.”
Whichever way he turns, Camuccio’s experience at Franklin & Marshall College has him headed for the stars.