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Davis, California

Thursday, October 21, 2021

In a galaxy far, far away…

Do you enjoy stargazing, watching the occasional meteor shower or wondering what galaxies lay beyond the Milky Way? If so, the Astronomy Club at UC Davis might be the place for you.

The Astronomy Club provides an opportunity for students from a variety of majors to learn about the stars.

“It’s the kind of club that anyone can get involved with,” said Andrea Nelson, current president of the club. “I’m a Japanese and Linguistics double major so I have nothing to do with science, but I love astronomy.”

Former club president, Dulce Gonzalez, thinks that the diversity of the membership works well with the club’s purpose.

“The astronomy club performs public outreach,” Gonzalez said in an e-mail interview. “We hold public viewings aimed specifically towards students.”

“The main purpose of this club is to promote and show people how much fun it is to enjoy the stars,” said Matt Borcky, vice president of the club.

The public viewings are held every other Friday and are located on the rooftop of the Physics building. The club sets up telescopes on the roof and anyone is welcome to attend. Club members and officers stand by to answer any questions guests may have.

“At the public viewings we find deep sky objects or we take a look at the moon and planets,” Gonzalez said. “What we decide to show the public depends on the weather and the moon cycle.”

In addition to public viewings, the club organizes a variety of other events.

“We go camping overnight at Mono Lake,” Nelson said. “We go once in the fall and once in the spring. The sky out there is amazing since there’s no light pollution.”

The club also goes on field trips to the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland and to the Lick Observatory near San Jose.

“When we go to the Lick Observatory we get to look through their really big refracting telescope. The ‘scopes we have here are only 8″, so the picture there is really good,” Nelson said.

Currently, the club only meets at the beginning of the quarter to go over the calendar and events. Most of the officers are roof-helpers for astronomy class labs, so they meet to discuss the club after their roof-helper meeting.

“Right now we want to try and meet with all members once a month,” Nelson said. “It’s not mandatory to attend meetings though, you can go whenever you want. If you want to just go to the events, you can do that too.”

Funding for the club comes from the students themselves. Students who attend field trips will pay for it on their own. The club carpools to events so they are able to split the cost of gas and food.

“We have a club account, but we don’t really do fundraising so we don’t have enough to pay for each student,” Nelson said.

To get involved with the club, students should sign up for the mailing list. The website is currently under construction and is not up-to-date, but the club sends out e-mails whenever a new event is underway. There is also a sign-up sheet outside of the club room in the Physics building on the fifth floor. However, Nelson recommends going to the mailing list first.

“We’re a word of mouth kind of club,” Borcky said. “It’s probably best to just show up to the meetings, go to the events and promote the club to your friends. You can also find us on Facebook.”

Club members agree that the Astronomy Club is a unique group and its diversity makes it special.

“There are a variety of very different people in the club,” Nelson said. “It’s a lot of fun too. It’s not a serious club, for instance, you can go to just one event and nothing else if you want.”

Borcky agrees and said they are original because they do things other clubs cannot.

“We have such diverse majors,” he said. “And what makes us unique is that we look at stuff in the sky. We get to see galaxies and nebulae and what do other clubs do? Get t-shirts?”

JENNIFER SCOFIELD can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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