UR Astronomy Club: Hands-On Observing

Univ. Communications – Living in a city like Rochester, N.Y., can put a damper on most nighttime astronomical observing because of light pollution and the seemingly always present cloud cover. However, the Astronomy Club at the University of Rochester offers students the opportunity to enjoy observational astronomy as well as a look into all aspects of astronomy and physics. Also, the club is perfect for those who merely want to know more and enjoy astronomy without the tedious task of trying to solve mathematical equations.

“We try to explain phenomenon qualitatively, so there’s virtually no math,” states club president Alexandra Kuznetsov ’14, astronomy major and founding member of the Astronomy Club. Because of this, club members can thoroughly appreciate the physical beauty of the cosmos.

The club plans trips one or two times a semester to CEK Mees Observatory in the Bristol Hills of Naples, N.Y., where they get hands-on experience observing through a 24-inch Cassegrain telescope. Kuznetsov said that at the last observation, the club members were able to observe Saturn, its rings, and some of Saturn’s moons. She says the club hopes to schedule three visits in the upcoming fall semester.

“There’s always exciting things going on,” said Kuznetsov. When asked about what students look for while observing, she said they “usually have a list of things [they] want to see.”

For those especially enthusiastic about observing, the University offers sanctuary to budding astronomers near Mees Observatory at Gannett House. Gannett has several bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, and more, making it a comfortable location for students and amateur astronomers to set a spell.

Recently, the club has been trying to implement “Quad Astronomy” into their activities by setting up a telescope on UR’s Academic Quad. Marissa Adams ’14, a physics major who is the secretary and a founding member of the Astronomy Club, believes bringing a telescope or solar scope to the Quad would be a fun activity.

“On a hot day, why not bring this aspect to the Quad when everybody is out lounging? I’m sure anyone on campus would love that,” she said.

If this becomes implemented into the club’s activities, observing could happen more frequently and be overall easier to plan and more accessible for students.

A known fact about observing is how incredibly cold astronomers can get while sitting in frigid observatories on top of mountains. Because the members want to survive an observation session, they take a break during the winter season.

During the cold months, the club plans bi-weekly events called “Astro Major Presents,” where they bring in astronomers and professors to talk about a characteristic of astronomy they know particularly well. Often after the talk, the floor opens for discussion while participants enjoy the occasional tea and cookies. Last semester, the club held a special event where several professors spoke about astronomy and then screened Steven Hawkins’s Into the Universe.

While founded only two years ago, the Astronomy Club offers as a great outlet for any night gazing enthusiast.

Furthermore, Mees Observatory holds weekly tours over the summer. For students who are on campus during the summer, the Astronomy Club is interested in going! Contact them as soon as possible to capitalize on this fun opportunity to get out of Rochester and experience the depths of the universe.

Learn more about the club and how to become a member by visiting https://sa.rochester.edu/clubs/AstroClub/about.

Article written by Cody McConnell, an English and philosophy dual major and member of UR Men’s Rugby, The Uglies. In McConnell’s free time, he plays bass and is the lead vocalist in a signed, touring death metal band.

In the Photo: Jeffrey Vankerkhove ’13, a physics and astronomy major, views the sky from the Mees Observatory. Photos are courtesy of Marissa Adams ’14.