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Astronomy students host party with the stars

Kayla Byler / Lantern photographer

Columbus was hoping to see stars on Friday night. Guest appearances from the Giant Nebula, ancient star clusters and other deep-sky objects were in the forecast for the Ohio State 2011 Spring Public Star Party and Planetarium Shows, but clouds stole the spotlight.

“We’re basically limited by Columbus weather,” said Calen Henderson, a second-year graduate student in astronomy and one of the many OSU astronomy students who helped with the event. He said most shows are to outside groups like Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts, but that weather always plays a part in how much is visible out of the telescopes, especially on overcast nights.

The inclement weather didn’t stop about 240 guests from showing up to the planetarium shows in Smith Laboratory. Many of the guests still headed to the rooftop to sneak a peak at the night sky and city lights.

The three showings at 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. reached near capacity and showed the audience what the sky looks like from places such as the Bahamas and North Pole, explanations of various constellations, question-and-answer sessions and other demonstrations.

Courtney Epstein, a third-year graduate student in astronomy, said she enjoys helping with the showings and the interesting questions that children and adults ask.

“People just get really excited about astronomy,” she said.

Andy Lehman, 7, of Columbus said he was most looking forward to looking through the telescope because he likes astronomy and wants to be a scientist.

“I’m gonna study Earth and space!” he said.

Jennifer Johnson, an assistant professor in astronomy, said they usually try to have a few events throughout the year, especially in Fall and Spring Quarter.

“The best days are when it’s clear,” Johnson said. “Over 300 people usually show up.”

She said the attendees are a “real mixture of ages,” and include families, students, faculty, astronomy enthusiasts and other interested individuals.

Johnson said the idea to have star party and planetarium shows came after the International Year of Astronomy in 2009, which marked the 400th anniversary of the first astronomical telescope that Galileo Galilei used.

“I’m next!” Andy said as he entered the room housing the permanent telescope, hoping to see a break in the clouds.


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