One bright student from McLean looked to the stars and will get a $10,000 scholarship for his effort.
Alec Brenner, 18, was named a 2013 Davidson Fellow thanks to his science project, "Viscoelastic Modeling of Tidal Heating in Terrestrial Exoplanets."
In layman's terms, tidal heating occurs when the gravitational tug of one celestial body, like a star, causes friction and heat on another, like a planet. The Earth-Moon relationship is perhaps the best example.
Brenner's model looked at the phenomenon, and how it relates to geology and habitability, of exoplanets, or planets in other solar systems, according to a news release.
Most of the 19 planets he studied were susceptible to "substantial" tidal heating, in some cases enough to melt their surfaces, according to the Davidson Institute for Talent Development.
According to the institute: "The past 20 years have seen the discovery of all 925 known exoplanets, with the rate of exoplanet discovery currently at about two per week, making exoplanetology one of the fastest growing fields in modern science. Alec’s research, combined with all research on exoplanets, could eventually result in the discovery of Earth-like exoplanets which are habitable. Tides are an often-neglected influence on planetary habitability, and could turn icy bodies into warm ones capable of sustaining life. The discovery of habitable planets could aid the search for extraterrestrial life, and could also find potential planets for future human colonization."
Brenner attends the California Institute of Technology, where he plans to major in geological and planetary sciences.
The Davidson Fellows Scholarship program offers up to $50,000 in scholarships to students 18 and younger who have created projects that can potentially benefit society in the realms of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, literature, philosophy and music, the release states.
The scholarship program has awarded more than $5.3 million to 226 students across the country since 2001.