FREEPORT (AP) – Some teenagers stay up late partying with friends.

But when Freeport teen Susana Hancock is up until 4 a.m., she’s probably out gazing at the stars.

The Astronomical League has named Hancock one of the top seven young astronomers in the nation for her study of the existence of dark matter, a substance that holds together material in the universe. She also placed first in the Astrophysics event of the Science Olympiad in 2003 and took second place the year before.

Hancock’s life is characterized by her love for astronomy, which started when she was a third-grader at Mast Landing School in Freeport. The school offered a variety of after-school classes for students, but Hancock only attended the science classes, primarily those dealing with astronomy.

“They finally called my mom and told her that I had to take something else,” Hancock said.

Her love for the sky drew her to attend a space program during sixth grade, where she took astronomy classes and flying lessons. Hancock still loves to fly and is working toward earning her pilot’s license.

Her high school, the Waynflete School, did not offer classes in astronomy or astrophysics, but that didn’t hold her back. She bought and borrowed books and taught herself the science of the sky.

“It’s the only science that you can’t bring the medium back to the lab,” she said. “It makes you feel kind of tiny.”

Described by her teachers as dedicated and persistent, Hancock doesn’t let anything hold her back.

When money limited her access to a high-powered telescope, Hancock made an eight-diameter telescope with cardboard, plywood and pipe. By using her birthday and Christmas money Hancock used a design book to carefully piece together the telescope.

Hancock plans to attend Connecticut College in the fall. She’s already taken enough college classes to skip her freshman year.

She plans to major in astrophysics and hopes to become an astronaut.

AP-ES-06-17-03 0839EDT

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