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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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‘Star parties’ bring galaxy closer to BCS

Students and community members will get a glimpse into the cosmos Tuesday through Mitchell Institute’s bi-weekly Star Party.

The Star Parties are hosted to provide the opportunity to look at particular planets and stars in the night sky while learning the physics behind what they see from astronomy professors and students. 

“A ‘star party’ is an event generally held by amateur astronomers to provide an opportunity for themselves and others to meet and look through telescopes at interesting objects in the night sky,” said Jennifer Marshall, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Lucas Macri, astronomy professor, said Texas A&M has held events of this type for more than a decade at the Campus Observatory. Starting in January 2010, they expanded the venues to locations in the main campus. 

“We wanted to share our interest in astronomy with as many people as possible, so we decided to set up some telescopes in areas of campus with high foot traffic such as outside of Sbisa Dining Hall and the MSC,” Macri said.

No previous astronomy knowledge is needed to attend the event, said Lucas Turner, aerospace engineering sophomore and Star Party team member. 

“No matter how much you know arriving, you can leave knowing more, and having appreciated views of truly astronomical beauty,” Turner said. “The most important thing to bring to a Star Party is a sense of curiosity about the cosmos.”

Turner said the Star Parties are special because of the expertise Marshall brings along with any other astronomy faculty or graduate students who attend.

“Guests are able to benefit from expert skill in selecting opportune targets such as planets and star clusters,” Turner said. “Better yet, not only do Dr. Marshall and her colleagues keep the telescopes trained on interesting and beautiful targets, they are also happy to answer questions about these objects. In short, Star Parties give attendees access to all the instrumentation and expertise they need to learn about our solar system, galaxy, and universe.”

At  the  event, the Star Party hosts  bring  high powered telescopes out that people can use to observe different planets and star formations.

“We have several telescopes, operated by knowledgeable undergrad and grad students, and we point them at particularly interesting objects that are visible from our location,” Macri said. “They range from the Moon, to planets such as Saturn and Mars, to binary star systems where each star has a different color, to large concentrations of stars and more.”

Turner said he attends the Star Parties because of his interest in space.

“By showing objects other than the Earth could possess orbiting bodies, Galileo struck a blow against the Earth centered models that still dominated at the time,” Turner said. “Star Parties give every one of us a chance to experience some of the simple observations that had a big impact on early physics and astronomy.”

Marshall said the Star Parties are open to all students and members of the community and usually garner 100-200 students. Marshall said with the Mitchell Institute advertising to the entire campus for this upcoming Star Party they expect a larger turnout than previous events. Tuesday’s Star Party will be held in front of Sbisa Dining Hall.

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