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UA Astronomy Club hosts star parties and explores research projects

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Patrick O'Connor and Patrick O'Connor and Patrick O'Connor / CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 | The Daily Wildcat

The eclipsed supermoon rises over the UA Mall on Sunday, Sept. 27. The next date of a simultaneous eclipse and supermoon — the moon when it is at its closest point in its orbit to the Earth — is 2033.

Whether you’re an amateur stargazer or a professional astronomer, the UA Astronomy Club has something for you. The Astronomy Club aims to educate students and members of the Tucson community about astronomy.

Membership for the Astronomy Club is open to anyone who has an interest in astronomy. Ryleigh Fitzpatrick, a junior studying astronomy and physics, has been a member of the Astronomy Club for two years and is currently its president.

“We’re a group of students who are interested in astronomy, both majors and minors and non-majors,” Fitzpatrick said.

The Astronomy Club participates in education, public outreach and research on campus and holds many events throughout the year. The club’s education and public outreach events are aimed at teaching Tucsonans more about astronomy.

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“We run Star Parties, which are events that we host where we have telescopes outside somewhere,” Fitzpatrick said. “We work with Flandrau Planetarium a lot putting those on.”

The Star Parties are free and open to the public on the first Saturday of every month at the Sabino Canyon visitor’s center from 5:30-9 p.m. The club also holds Star Parties for groups that request them, according to Jenny Calahan, a sophomore studying astronomy and physics and historian for the club.

“People can request a Star Party in their community,” Calahan said, “but we also do a lot of public ones.”

The Astronomy Club is also involved with several different research projects on campus, according to Fitzpatrick.

“We have an exoplanet project, where we’re characterizing what we call ‘hot Jupiter exoplanets,’” Fitzpatrick said. Hot Jupiter exoplanets are Jupiter-sized planets that are relatively close to their host stars.

Fitzpatrick is interested in doing more research on exoplanets using radio wavelengths. “It’s a fascinating field, and not many people work on it,” he said.

The new project will require some hefty telescopes.

“There’s a new radio project using radioastronomy and a radio telescope on Kitt Peak,” said Calahan, who will lead the radioastronomy research project this year. “We’re going to be probing the interstellar medium and looking at pre-protostellar cores that we think are going to create massive stars,”

According to Fitzpatrick, the club is also building a binocular telescope and a portable planetarium. The portable planetarium will be able to be used at outreach events if the weather does not permit stargazing.

The Astronomy Club also takes its members on club trips, including visits to major research telescopes.

“Every year, we take a trip to the American Astronomical Society meeting,” Fitzpatrick said. The AAS meetings take place in January and give undergraduates an opportunity to meet astronomy graduate students, professors and researcher astronomers from all over the world, according to Fitzpatrick.

The club also holds other fun events, such as movie nights and game nights, in addition to its weekly meetings.

“The weekly meetings are fun,” Calahan said. “We have a lot of time in our week devoted just to classes, so it’s nice to just have a meeting once a week, hang out with friends, talk about astronomy and do things we like to do.”

The Astronomy Club meets every Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the Steward Observatory. For more information on club meeting times and future events, contact Fitzpatrick by email at fitzpatrickm@email.arizona.edu, or visit the Astronomy Club’s website at uaastroclub.org.


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (9/17)
1,308 34 2.6%
Total (8/2)
21,229 411 1.9%
Includes tests since August 2, 2021
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated September 17, 2021