Bellaire Astronomy Club’s Star Party
It was the largest turnout they ever had. Over 60 students and staff came to the Astronomy Club’s second star party of the year for International Observe the Moon Night on Sept. 30. Bellaire physics teacher and club sponsor Jimmy Newland said this star party has had the most people show up in all the 14 years that he’s done it.
“We started this in 2008 and there’ve been some pretty big turnouts, but this is the most,” Newland said. “I’ve got former students. I’ve got the former librarian here. We had teachers come out, parents showed up, and apparently some students from Episcopal.”
Along with the Lunar and Planetary Institute, NASA founded International Observe the Moon Night in 2000 and Newland has made sure to celebrate the astrological holiday ever since he went to a training there in 2008.
“Mr. Newland is really interactive with the club,” senior and club secretary Minh Le said. “He provides most of the telescopes and keeps up with the astrological events. A lot of people showed up to the last star party. And it’s nice to have a huge garage to host the star party at and also give us a really nice view. So we have the equipment, the people, the location, and the motivation for it.”
But even with things working in its favor, the club has faced challenges with setting up convenient times to host these star parties, having to factor in weather and school permissions.
“It’s really hard to find a convenient time to meet,” Newland said. “We got extremely lucky for this one.”
Students were able to get a stunning view of the moon’s surface through the four telescopes Newland brought with him. But they could also get a glimpse of Saturn and Jupiter in opposition, two targets that Newland said would be good to take a look at for the rest of 2022 and a lot of 2023.
“The truth is when you’re looking at stuff in an urban environment,” Newland said, “you have to pick planets and the moon because they’re the most visible. Anything darker and it’ll be harder to see and a lot less impressive. What we’re seeing right now is pretty impressive, but the other targets aren’t as good. But regardless, people just enjoy being out here.”
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