The Planets Observation – October 25th, 2008
The Millikin Chapter of the Society of Physics Students joined up with Michael Luxner and his concert, “The Planets”. After attending the concert featuring Gabriel Cabezas, attendees got the chance to see Jupiter, king of the planets and currently the brightest object in the night sky, along with its four largest moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. Prior to the concert, Dr. Watson, along with students Andrew Schenk and Shae Trumpy delivered the evening’s Concert Preview “The Planets: Our Solar System and Beyond”.
Eyes on the sky: Visitors to Millikin observatory find a lot to love in night sky, October 2nd, 2008
The Herald & Review sent a reporter and photographer to one of our latest PONs and the following article was released on October 2nd, 2008.
By ANNIE GETSINGER - H&R Staff Writer
DECATUR - On a clear night, you can see Jupiter.
Visitors to a recent public observation night at Millikin University's Requarth Observatory got a closer look at the planet and its Galilean moons on a recent Tuesday.
The university's chapter of the Society of Physics Students, along with help from faculty and local community members, hosts the free nights each Tuesday and select Saturdays at the observation deck on top of the Leighty-Tabor Science Center.
Typically the events, which begin 30 minutes after sunset if the weather is clear, consist of a short presentation and then the opportunity to view objects through the university's 8-inch telescopes and the 20-inch telescope inside the dome.
Casey R. Watson, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Millikin, said visitors can see objects such as binary stars, nebulae and globular clusters, which look like "a big puffball of stars," through the large telescope.
The Decatur city lights wash out a lot of the fainter objects, he said, but there are still many things to see.
Robert T. Arn, a junior applied math and computer science major from Decatur and Society of Physics Students president, attended one of the nights for a Mars viewing several years back.
"I've always been interested in astronomy, but that night made me think about going more into it, learning more and being more active in astronomy and observations," he said. "And it led me here."
Arn has spent many days and nights in the dome. He helped fix the telescope and now relishes the chance to show people what they can see in the night sky.
"My first real experience was not observational, but rather photographic, and just to be able to take a picture of an object that is not only not visible with the naked eye, but not visible with the eye through the telescope, just seeing how much was up there, it was an incredible experience," Arn said.
"We try to be very active in that, and I think it's really enjoyable for all of us," Watson said. "I know I like to see those 'Aha!' moments."
Watson said the observation nights are a great way for the public to get involved in science, especially because junior high and high schools no longer place an emphasis on astronomy.
"If you're studying the insides of frogs or a ball rolling down a plane or something, it's just not as exciting as a star blowing up," Watson said.
He hopes to see a boost in science and math interest come out of the observation nights. In the past year and a half, the university's observation programs and outreach activities have reached more than 3,200 people, Arn said.
One of those was Ed Kaufman, a retired math professor who attends the events regularly. He said the beauty of the objects in the night sky keeps him coming back for more.
"I have a telescope at home, but it's sort of fun to come out and enjoy it with a bunch of other people, too," he said.
Bryan Maple, president of the Decatur Area Astronomy Club, has given several presentations at the public observation nights. He is a longtime astronomy buff.
"I just remember being a kid and looking up at the sky one night and seeing all the stars, and I was just instantly hooked," he said. "I couldn't get enough information."
Maple said he believes the events are a draw for the community because they give people a chance to find out what goes on at the observatory and indulge their natural curiosity.
"A lot of people have looked up on their own at night and saw a couple stars but never really have gotten to see anything more than that," Arn said. "And just being able to see what else is up there and seeing there is more up there is a real appeal.
A special thanks to the Herald & Review for taking the time to share our story and also a special thanks to all of the people that make PONs possible.