Astronomy Club puts students in touch with the cosmos.
by Hailey Guit
Everyone has looked up at the stars and wondered about the endless space above. This year there is a club dedicated to appreciating and viewing the wonders of the night sky, the Patriot Astronomy Club (PAC).
A handful of freshmen, along with a few sophomore and junior students, meet every Thursday during A Lunch in Ms. Jacqueline Mulvey’s room 702 for PAC. The club started small, with only the founding students and Mulvey meeting every week, but as the school year progressed the club has grown. In March, the club held elections for officer positions. “We decided to have a vote because there are enough people now to have a fair vote,” said freshman Rebecca Byers, who was elected president of the club.
The idea to start the club came up when Mulvey visited the 2015 Science and Engineering Fair and Expo. She met some members of the Astronomy Club of Southern Maryland (ACSM), which consists of local people who go to monthly meetings to stargaze. Mulvey was inspired by that organization to form a club for students at Northern to experience the same thing. “I have a telescope, and I didn’t know how to use it, so I was interested in hooking up with them to see if I could learn how to use my own telescope,” said Mulvey. “The representative from the Astronomy Club of Southern Maryland encouraged me to be the faculty sponsor for a club here because a number of students had approached him about forming a club.”
Since the beginning of the school year, and with the help of the ACSM, the students of PAC have held three stargazing events, on December 16 and March 2. At these events, students were invited to come to the school’s soccer field starting at nightfall to view the stars and any planets that might be visible. “At our last stargazing event, we actually saw Jupiter and four of its moons and we also saw the Orion Nebula, which was kinda like a pretty cloud in the sky, but I was obsessed over it. I wanted to see it so bad,” said Byers. It wasn’t even necessary for students to have a telescope in order to attend because telescopes were provided by the Astronomy Club of Southern Maryland.
The club held a viewing during the school day on May 6 to allow students to view the transit of Mercury across the sun.
In addition to providing telescopes for the stargazing events, the ACSM has a few members who have helped the PAC students have a successful first year. Tom Dugan is the president of the club and helped Mulvey start the PAC. “When I was in high school a long long time ago, I would have loved to have had an Astronomy Club to share my hobby with other like-minded kids,” he said.
Another member of the ACSM is David Clark, a retired NASA Goddard worker. Clark agreed to take some of the students and Mrs. Mulvey on a tour of Goddard over spring break. Mulvey and Byers went on the tour and each brought with them a few friends and family members. They went on a typical visitor’s tour of the Goddard facilities, which consists of over 200 buildings. “We actually got to see the telescope they are building, like the reflector blades, and the primary and secondary mirrors being put together,” said Mulvey.
“I’m very happy we’ve gotten to do all the events we have this year,” said sophomore member D.J. Siciliano. “We have been getting more people to come to each event, and we have gained more members as the year progressed.” They have gained over a dozen members and held a special stargazing night on May 4 in honor of Star Wars because of the play on words “May the fourth be with you.”
Planning for next year, the club hopes to gain more members, hold more stargazing events, and maybe even go to a field trip to either the planetarium or back to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center when more members can attend. The sky is not the limit for the dedicated students and all their plans for the future.