Though Small Hall might not be the most bustling hall on campus, the building comes alive with the weekly meeting of the Astronomy Club on Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. in Room 122. The Astronomy Club is a relatively small but dedicated group of students who meet and discuss their shared interest in outer space. Club members embraced stargazing and the discussion of astrophysics concepts with equal interest.
At a weekly meeting on Nov. 9, members of the club sat and intently listened to a presentation by former Astronomy Club president and self-proclaimed “former space overlord of Astro Club” Mikayla Huffman ’22. Huffman discussed their current physics research at the University of Colorado Boulder, where they are currently participating in the Astrophysical and Planetary Science Ph.D. program. To some members of the affectionately nicknamed “Astro Club,” who began the meeting discussing their current physics classes, Huffman provided insight into what their own futures in physics could look like.
Though talks like Huffman’s are welcomed by the members of the club, that is not usually how Astro Club spends its meetings. Astro Club usually starts its gatherings with announcements, during which each executive board member has a specific topic they present at each meeting. Some of the topics include Space News, in which social chair Erin McDonald ’25 gives an update on the latest in space; Constellation Corner, in which a different constellation is shared each week, along with its location and the mythology behind it; and APOD, or Astronomy Picture of the Day, where Astro Club secretary Mia Bridges ’25 shares and discusses a photo of their choosing (this week, it was the Crab Nebula).
Beyond these tidbits, an astronomy-related data science project is discussed with the members, giving them the opportunity to use their space interest for school credit.
Co-President Yera Park ’25 shared that she brings homemade hot chocolate to most Astro Club meetings. Park makes the cocoa using her own electric kettle, and most weeks the club offers cups for members who may have forgotten theirs. While the hot cocoa is poured, members chat among themselves, and the sound of laughter fills the room. The club’s energy is convivial, and members seem excited to see their Astro Club friends.
Many Astro Club members have been a part of the group since they were freshmen, including Nick DeSante ’26, who joined the club in fall 2022. DeSante recounted his first Astronomy Club meeting, during which attendees played trivia.
“So I went to this meeting in Small Hall, and I just really had a lot of fun answering questions,” DeSante said. “Ever since then, I just kept coming to meetings, and I’ve really enjoyed it so far.”
Like DeSante, Abigail Swanberg ’25 has been coming to Astro Club meetings since the first semester of her freshman year.
“I’ve always been really interested in space,” Swanberg said. “So I came in freshman year and went to the activities fair, and I saw we had an Astronomy Club, and I started coming to all the meetings and had a lot of fun.”
Bridges has also been a member of the club since the first semester of their freshman year when COVID-19 mandates pushed all extracurricular activities online. As a physics major, Bridges shared that while they may seem like the typical Astro Club member, the club is open to everyone, whether they are a STEM major or not. They explained that because the College does not have a major centered specifically on astronomy, the club is especially important.
“Anybody can learn about space or work in space, in astronomy or in any capacity, no matter what major they are,” Bridges said.
Though Bridges wants to work in an astronomy-related field someday, they communicated that they appreciate Astro Club for more than just the space-related information.
“I really love getting to talk to people about space. I really enjoy that,” Bridges said. “I can’t always make my roommates do it, but the people who come to hear people talk about space, they’ll appreciate it.”
Another thing Bridges noted they appreciate about Astro Club is the club-sanctioned stargazing. The Astronomy Club used to have a dome on the roof that they used as an observatory, but DeSante clarified that it has been broken for a couple of years, and it has not yet been repaired. However, club members still use telescopes when they go up to the roof to stargaze at least once a month, which often leads to fond memories, as Bridges recalled.
“One week they brought out the telescopes, and we were looking at the different planets and the moon and stuff like that, and they turned it to Jupiter, and we got an amazing view of Jupiter where we were seeing the white and red stripes on the planet,” Bridges said. “And that was so cool. I didn’t know that you could do that with such a little telescope.”
Other members of the club, like Swanberg, are similarly effusive when it comes to their favorite memories of Astro Club.
“Oh, I really like getting to go up on the roof,” Swanberg said. “Last year, for I think it was a lunar eclipse, we all went up like the morning of Election Day onto the roof and watched it together.”
For DeSante, the best part of Astro Club is the people.
“I think that just the people are really my favorite part,” he said. “We do lots of fun things just like catching up with space, going up and looking at the stars or just having hot cocoa nights, but just talking to people is really great.”
Bridges made it clear that they encourage everyone interested in space to give the club a try. They emphasized that this student organization is a great outlet for those with a passion for the celestial heavens.
“If you have an interest, then I think we’re here to help fuel that,” Bridges said. “I love space, space is awesome. I think a lot of people really like space, and I think it’s a really cool opportunity to actually get to do and learn some things that you might not in terms of space. I never got to use a telescope before, and now I’m looking at star clusters, and that’s so cool.”