Near the beginning of the semester, my astronomy professor, Dr. Erickson, informed the class about stargazing that would take place every Monday-Thursday (weather permitting). A few upper level astronomy/physics students would be out on the patio near the Heim Science Building with a telescope. Dr. Erickson encouraged us to stop by once every one or two weeks, but I knew that I would be visiting more often than that. Now, every time the weather is nice and my schedule works out, I am out on the Heim patio looking through a telescope.
It all started with one of the early labs that we needed to complete in astronomy: the star counting lab. We had to make star tubes through which to observe the sky so there would be a countable number of stars. We would take multiple counts and multiply the averages by a certain number calculated by using the dimensions of our tubes. When this lab was going on, it was great to go to observing and take star counts there since the Heim patio is just about the darkest place on campus.
Even after the lab was finished and turned in, I still enjoyed going to observing. It is run by two members of the Society of Physics Students, of which I am a part. We look at things like Saturn, Mars, the moon, a really amazing four star system named Capella, etc. We look at pretty much whatever is in the sky during that time. I am present during these observing sessions so often that I have started to learn more about how to use the telescope. It is programmable which is really useful for finding things like nebulae and some of the more uncommon stars.
These observing sessions are open to anyone on campus and even the public. There are also planetarium shows every first Friday of the month here at Lycoming College. SPS is planning on having observing sessions after the planetarium shows if the weather allows it. This would allow for more people from the community to learn about and gain an appreciation for astronomy.
Visitors at these stargazing sessions can even use their phones to take pictures through the telescope. For instance, I took this picture of the moon through the telescope.
I really enjoy going to the observing sessions held almost every night here on campus. I think they’re a great way to learn about the stars in a hands on manner. Plus, they’re a great place to have fun and relax after a long day of classes!