The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

NE students party with the stars for extra credit


Engelsen\NE Star Party

A group of eight astronomy students gathered outside the NE Science Building Nov. 15 for a chance to view the stars from the school’s Newtonian telescope.

Each semester, physical sciences instructor Steve Tuttle hosts a few Star Parties to allow students a more hands-on approach to learning about the dynamics of the universe along with earning some extra credit points. Aside from that, the ability to marvel at the beauty of the expansive black sky through a magnified lens is reason enough to attend these gatherings.

NE philosophy major Savannah Townley commented on what she expected to learn from the theories of scientists.

“It’s the biggest question for everybody,” she said. “Nobody knows. Nobody knows, and nobody needs to forget that.”

A Newtonian telescope with a Dobsonian mount was used for the stargazing. The telescope has a 1524 mm focal length with a 32 millimeter eye piece — meaning students could see space close up although rooted on Earth.

It was a cloudy night with constant winds assuring the sky was covered. The Eastern sky was clear, but the location of the main objective of the night, the star Vega, was swarmed with hanging residue.

“I think stars are cool,” astronomy student Drew Denham said. “I wish we could see some of them today. That’d be pretty sweet. It’s allright. We learn a ton of stuff in class anyway.”

Vega is of the constellation Lyra, but students were to identify the asterism the star belongs to, something they’d just discussed in class. Asterism is “a name given to a set of stars not in the same constellation,” Tuttle said.

The particular asterism Vega is located in is called The Great Summer Triangle because it is directly overhead during the summer months. The Great Summer Triangle is composed of the stars Vega, Altaire and Deneb and forms a “W” that may be used for direction, Tuttle said.

“Think of it as a big ‘V’ and split the V down the middle,” he said. “It points at the North Star … or close enough that if you’re in doubt, you can use this stuff for navigation.”

Once the clouds passed, students got a view of their designated star, along with a few others and a couple of airplanes. Although the temperature  grew cold, students agreed that seeing space in its glory was enough to make the night a worthwhile venture.

“The stars are everything,” said Rico Rodriguez, a former astronomy student. “They’ve been here through the past and now the present.”

No one knows about the future. Stars may burn out, Tuttle said. Some very important ones that may change the climate, and the existence of the Earth entirely, but current society will be long dead by then. Is anything actually infinite except for growth and expansion, or does that have an expiration date as well, Tuttle asked. Maybe humans will never know, but Tuttle he said it is a fascinating question to ponder.

“We haven’t gotten the rest of the cosmologist chapter yet, but obviously what’s going to happen is … all the evidence right now points to the fact that the universe will continue to expand forever and ever,” he said. “Everything else is just background noise.”

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