Watching the Stars: New MV Astronomy and Astrophysics Club

“Astronomy is the oldest of the sciences by far, and we haven’t really discovered much about it- that’s why it’s so interesting,” said sophomore Eric Yang. It was this passion for astronomy that led him, as well as the club’s founder, sophomore Christian Chiong, to start the Monta Vista Astronomy and Astrophysics Club. Though they initially had trouble finding an advisor, and had some issues with announcements, the club was passed without difficulty.

Members of Astronomy Club meet at lunch to discuss moons and dwarf planets. (Photo by Keerat Singh)

The founders hope to foster interest in astronomy at MVHS through stargazing events at Monte Bello Open Space Preserve, the USA Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad and discussion of astronomical news.

“There’s actually […] the international [Olympiad] syllabus, and some of our stuff will be based on it but not all of it.” said Yang. The first meeting covered the first topic on this syllabus, celestial mechanics, and the attendees showed promising improvement. Celestial mechanics is an essential part of the Olympiad, though perhaps not the most engaging.

“We basically teach our members physics and […] talk about the equations […] for like Olympiad preparation but when we get into the news and discussion, it’s going to be a lot more interesting,” said Yang. The first meeting ran too long to cover the Rosetta spacecraft’s crash landing or the interesting implications of the speed of light, but the founders hoped to discuss them in the next meeting.

Due to the lack of interaction in the first meeting, the club shifted its focus away from math-heavy astrophysics and more towards astronomy. The style of meeting also changed, with the second meeting including discussion of recent news, a short video and a poll. By the third meeting everyone was wholly engaged, which Yang attributes to the lack of math in the presentation. The meeting also included a quiz with candy at the end, which no doubt helped maintain interest. Future meetings will follow this style rather than the math-heavy lecture from the first meeting.

“Astronomy is the oldest of the sciences by far, and we haven’t really discovered much about it- that’s why it’s so interesting.” – Sophomore Eric Yang

To accomplish the club’s goal of fostering interest in astronomy, the president and vice president of the club work to make the meeting more engaging, maintain the club website (which is impressively up to date), and organize future events. They hope to have a stargazing session before winter break, though it is not yet fully planned.

“If you look at the sky, looking at a star is actually looking at the past because the light actually came from millions or billions of years ago.” said Chiong. It is interesting bits like this that they hope will attract people to the Astronomy Club, which meets every Friday at lunch.

Cover image: Flickr/Tom Hall (CC BY 2.0)