Sarah Markley’s picture of the Andromeda galaxy was colorized using software provided by the Smithsonian Institute’s Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos program, run by the Pinhead Institute, a Smithsonian affiliate. Markley, a sixth-grader, will present her astrophotography project in Washington, D.C., this week. (Courtesy photo)


Two students from the Telluride Middle/High School will present on their astrophotography work at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., for a two-day National Youth Summit, Feb. 22-23. 

Seventh-grader Mylo Meyers Ornowski and sixth-grader Sarah Markley were selected to attend the summit because of their dedication to the Smithsonian Institution’s Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos program, which is run by the Pinhead Institute, one of 13 Smithsonian affiliates that participated in the initiative. 

As an affiliate, the Pinhead Institute received computers, software and a curriculum from the Smithsonian Institution that guided students in Telluride and the West End on an astrophotography journey.

The program allowed students to access the Smithsonian’s MicroObservatory’s robotic telescopes to “take and colorize their own images of stars and galaxies the same way that professional astronomers do,” the Smithsonian website states. 

There are five telescopes in Massachusetts and Arizona that take the images. 

Sarah Holbrooke, executive director of the Pinhead Institute, said after the initial program’s success, the institute made the course available on a drop-in basis at the Telluride Middle/High School for any students interested in using the software.

“We had a bunch of kids who would drop in once (and not come back), but then we had two stalwart students who kept coming week after week after week even if they had other things to do,” Holbrooke said. 

The persistent astrophotographers, Meyers Ornowski and Markley, were obvious choices when it came time to decide who should represent the Pinhead Institute in Washington, Holbrooke said. 

The trip is free for the two students as the Smithsonian Institute pays for accommodation and attendance to the summit, while the Pinhead Institute is covering airfare. 

At the summit, the students will present on a celestial object of their choosing — one they have photographed, colorized and created a poster presentation of — to guests and members of the public at the National Air and Space Museum. 

Meyers Ornowski, who will present on the Whirlpool galaxy, said he is excited to meet students from other affiliates.

“I am looking forward to meeting people from the Smithsonian and showing them my art,” he said. “I am excited to exchange ideas with people who are interested in the same thing.”

Holbrooke said the two students have been working in the STEM lab, using a 3-D printer and acrylics to work on their posters. 

Apart from the youth presentations, the students will also attend events that pertain to science, technology and innovation at the National Air and Space Museum, and the National Museum of History. 

Cynthia Meyers, Mylo’s mother, said that her son was always captivated by space. 

“He has always been really interested in space in all forms; space travel, planets and planetary movement,” she said. “He already had an interest and (the Pinhead Institute) further sparked his interest.”

Now that he is heading to the National Youth Summit in D.C., his curiosity has peaked even further. 

“The summit has just been a really good inspiration for him,” she said. “He is starting to watch more TED Talks about different galaxies and nebulas” in preparation for his presentation. 

Holbrooke said the program has been a way to bring the night sky a bit closer to home. 

“Our night sky is beautiful and it is just nice to know more about it,” she said. “This program allows you to take a photograph with it, and colorize it and kind of imagine that you are there.”

For more information about the Pinhead Institute, visit