Whitefield Academy Blog
Night School: Whitefield Academy’s Astronomy Club
When was the last time you looked up to the evening sky and beheld thousands of twinkling stars? I remember as a child raised in rural New England the sky being so black and dark that it allowed me to view what seemed to be millions of stars. As a kid I thought that was normal. I assumed everyone else had my vantage point. “Shooting stars” or meteorites, as they are called, were fairly common fare. It wasn’t until leaving New England after college that I realized how special those skies were.
Watching the Skies Today
As I raise my own children, my desire to impart a love of astronomy has taken hold in the last few years. With the 2017 solar eclipse totality path nearby, new developments in privatized space exploration and even recent releases of fantastic space movies like Hidden Figures, the time was ripe to jump back in with enthusiasm. Kansas City is a good place to learn and utilize resources to discover more about the night sky. We are fortunate to have a few good observatories nearby, a new digital planetarium, the phenomenal Cosmosphere a short day trip away, and we are home to one of the largest astronomical societies in the country. Numerous local colleges offer courses in astronomy as well.
Who is Astronomy For?
Is it for only the intellectually fittest among us? Absolutely, unequivocally not. (However we can leave the Astrophysics to them.) As Christian believers we behold God’s creation in awestruck wonder, marveling at his work and wisdom in patterning the universe. Indeed classical education includes the study of astronomy in its sciences. It is fitting for our community to have a club for those interested in pursuing more knowledge about the cosmos. Astronomy is for adults and children alike! I love seeing people take their first view through a telescope. The “oohs” and “ahhs” that accompany a first look is always neat. The first time you peer through and see a very full, robust moon down to the the details of the craters and mountains is breathtaking!
Our Latest Excursion
Last Saturday our astronomy club met at the Powell Observatory in Louisburg, KS. A total of 17 of us braved surprisingly chilly temperatures along with about 75-100 others to be part of NASA’s International Observe The Moon Day. We also happened to be smack in the middle of a meteor shower. After packing our wagon with blankets, fold out chairs, our telescope, a picnic dinner, a huge amount of cookies, fresh Louisburg Apple Cider, astronomy approved red light flashlights, and red glow-stick tie-ons to locate wandering children post dusk, we were on our way!
No fewer than 15 Astronomical Society Club members set out telescopes pointed at different objects in the sky. We took turns at each one viewing globular clusters, planets such as Mars and Saturn, the Moon, and even distant galaxies like the Andromeda and Hercules galaxies. How phenomenal is it that we can view galaxies 2.5 million light years away from us? Despite the waxing gibbous moon making extra light pollution, I was able to see some meteorites blaze across the sky. A short media presentation was given inside by the Society. Members are always happy to share their knowledge as you peer through their telescopes. Some will even point out constellations with their laser pointers.
Our club started just over a year ago with the goal of making a time and space for casual study and pursuit of astronomy in our Whitefield Community. This is a low pressure group of both novice and experienced learners comprised of adults, children of all ages, and faculty members. We have had quarterly meetups at the Powell Observatory, the Planetarium, and also the Paul Tebbe Observatory at JCCC. In November there will be an opportunity to come join us at the Warko Observatory at UMKC just off the Plaza. Over the winter we will likely hit the Planetarium again for some warm indoor activity. I also envision a great Nova documentary movie party in the future. Later in the spring or summer I’d love to arrange a day or weekend trip for families to the Cosmosphere, which has plenty of live artifacts from space missions. The museum really is a gem that Kansas is fortunate to have.
I also want to mention that you can join the Astronomical Society of Kansas City for as little as $15 a student and $60 for a full family membership. Many things are included but notably a monthly lecture for members only with guest astronomers covering one topic per evening.
Life indeed gets busy, so I invite you to make a time and priority to dip your toes in to discovering the wonder of astronomy with us. Simply email [email protected] to be placed on the email list for future events.