The Astronomy Club is an organization for students with a fascination with the universe. Founded in 2009, this club provides its members with the resources needed to fully experience celestial objects and events. This could be meteor showers, different planets or just a particularly lovely night sky.
The Astronomy Club faculty advisor, Carla Fröhlich, a professor of astrophysics, described the club as a “great opportunity to gain first-hand experience with telescopes and even astrophotography.”
According to Astronomy Club President Noah Wolfe, a third-year studying physics and mathematics, the majority of the club’s stargazing happens at their Reedy Creek facility. Unfortunately, the facility itself was damaged during Hurricane Florence, but members still use the concrete allotment outside the facility to set up telescopes in an area without much light pollution.
Not every night is ideal for these so-called “dark site outings.” Club leaders have to factor the potential for rain or clouds obstructing their view. About every other week, club leaders get together to observe the upcoming weeks’ weather conditions, in order to establish whether or not they can have an outing.
Even when it is not an ideal week to break out the telescopes, the Astronomy Club still tries to meet biweekly to discuss astronomy. These topics could range from facts to news about what is happening in space to new pieces of technology. This is also the time where they vote for officers and discuss upcoming events and fundraisers. This allows for the creation of a community where, in the words of Wolfe, “astronomy nerds can come to nerd out.”
In years past, the club has also attended astronomy-focused events all around Raleigh. They have gone to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences when it hosts its yearly Astronomy Days program, where they listened to speakers and looked at exhibits. They have also partnered with other astronomy groups like the Raleigh Astronomy Club to experience different dark sites around the city.
The majority of the club is made up of physics majors but welcomes people from all majors. In the past few years, the club has become more diverse as they expand into doing more outreach and connecting with more people both in and out of NC State.
Talking to local high schools, they have been trying to coordinate programs to allow special education students to learn about and experience astronomy. This program may include going to meet students and read to them about solar astronomy and possibly bringing them to campus for a nighttime event.
Though the club has no dues, it holds fundraisers throughout the year to help them raise money for new equipment and to help maintain Reedy Creek. Joining the Astronomy Club is easy, all students have to do is sign up for the mailing list. After that, it is just a matter of attending their casual meetings whenever able.
“It’s some of the most inspiring stuff in the universe,” said Wolfe. “With respect to our club, if you want to share that love of the universe, stop by.”