When Ashley Peter left for the Canary Islands, she had no idea that she would be using the largest optical telescope in the world–or that the experience would influence her future.
Earth, Atmospheric & Planetary Sciences major Ashley Peter studies asteroids in the Canary Islands, Spain

Gran Telescopio de Canarias

While working at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) in the Canary Islands, Spain, MIT junior Ashley Peter used a 10.4-meter telescope to study two groups of asteroids in space. She had not only the opportunity to use the world’s largest optical telescope, the Gran Telescopio de Canarias (GTC), but to be the first to observe these asteroids with its CanariCam imager. “I never thought I would be able to use an instrument that some professional astronomers can only dream of operating,” she says.

Ashley observed asteroids from the Cybele and Hilda families located between Mars and Jupiter. Studying these asteroids provides clues to the origin and evolution of the solar system, giving insight into how our planets formed. Ashley used the GTC to conduct spectroscopic observations in the near-infrared wavelength to characterize the asteroids’ compositions and natures.

More than a scientific experience

Ashley was also influenced by the research atmosphere. “I felt that the researchers I worked with stressed the learning process even more than in the US,” she says. “I learned that although problem-solving and the research process may stress results, at the end of the day, it’s also the steps taken along the way to reach those results that are even more valuable.”

Outside the office, too, Ashley found the island and town more fascinating than she’d hoped. “Tenerife was like a unique microcosm of Spain itself, and I am so happy I could call it home for those few months,” she remembers. “I gained a global perspective working with people from all over the world, and built lasting relationships.”

After returning from the Canary Islands, Ashley felt incredibly fortunate to be able to conduct research abroad at such a renowned institution. She plans to use the data she collected during her internship for her Bachelor’s thesis: “This experience has without a doubt affected my academic path and will stay with me for years to come.”

  • Spain
  • Internship
  • EAPS