The telescopes of the Glendale College Astronomy Observatory will be open to the viewing public this Friday night for Glendale Community College’s Spring Stargazing Event.
The faculty at GCC’s North Valley campus are giving audiences a chance to view distant planets and stars in conjunction with the Arizona SciTech festival, an annual celebration of S.T.E.M. related fields and research.
“It’s to celebrate science and technology, so basically, the STEM field, science, technology, engineering and math, around the valley,” said GCC Physical Sciences Assistant Department Chair, Sally Watt. “So It’s not just GCC that does the SciTech festival, we just participate in it.”
GCC stargazers will be able to perform experiments, weigh themselves according to planetary measures, and “walk the Solar System” during this special scientific event.
“The SciTech festival is bigger that our normal stargazing events so we’ve also got chemistry out there, we’ve got physics, we’ve got demos, we’ve got make and takes, and all sorts of other activities that don’t usually show up that are only showing up for the SciTech festival,” said Watt. “The walk through the Solar System is actually a scale model of the Solar System drawn in chalk along the walk way of the building.”
Open for just the last two years, the observatory features eight high-powered telescopes which will be manned by “tour guides” in the form of trained students who will also answer any questions and help visitors out with their stargazing during this opportune event.
“The ones who are actually running the telescopes are students, [current] astronomy students or former astronomy students, ” said Watt. “They take a little bit of learning to really know how to use them, so we don’t have them set up all the time.”
Public stargazing at the event not only offers volunteering students a chance to showcase their telescopic skills, it also connects them with experts in related fields.
“I volunteered for the geology department, I helped out with the panning for gold,” said third-year Planetary Geology major and Spring Stargazing volunteer, Nathan Dolinschi. “It was a lot of fun, I met a lot of interesting people, like I met one guy who was actually like, a professional gold panner and he actually taught me how to do it, it was really cool.”
GCC astronomy students get to demonstrate everything they’ve learned in the program in a real work experience setting at the observatory, while increasing public awareness of the skies and stars during the Spring Stargazing event. They are given a specific task to do so, much to their instructors delight.
“Them being able to explain it, that’s what I really like,” said Watt. “It’s that I teach those students to run those telescopes and I give them each an object and they go learn about that object and, you know, when the regular public comes through, my students own that object and they’re really explaining and able to talk about it.”
Students are encouraged to attend the Spring Stargazing Event, taking place at GCC North from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Its free and open to the public and there will be hot chocolate and cookies on hand for chilly stargazers.
“I mean, come on, it’s space,” said Dolinschi. “It’s the final frontier, its the last place that humanity has to go where its new and exciting.”