Students, faculty, and community members can come together and admire the night sky at Star Watch, a monthly program put on by the Physics and Engineering Department of Southern Adventist University.
The event is held in the parking lot of Hickman Science Center from 8:30-9:30 p.m. on the first Friday of each month and has been a Southern tradition for nearly 40 years. With the assistance of two telescopes, attendees can observe stars, moons, planets, and even artificial satellites.
“The first time many people see Saturn and its rings, their mouths drop open,” said Henry Kuhlman, professor in the Physics and Engineering Department. “They think we are holding a postcard at the end of the telescope.”
Due to the earth’s rotation, the night sky changes monthly so each month offers a unique experience. The next Star Watch is in October, and Jupiter and four of its Galilean moons will be visible. In November and December the group can typically see Saturn and its rings.
“You can find all these pictures of stars and planets on the web,” Kuhlman said. “But it’s a different feeling to stand there and see them with your own eyes.”
It’s also amazing to view the planets through a spiritual lens. When students look at the heavenly bodies, they have one more insight into God’s creative ability.
“I was so enthralled by looking through the telescope and seeing just one small part of all the universe, and that experience made me all the more excited about what we have to look forward to with Christ,” said Christen Case, junior math and chemistry major.
Star Watch also gives students the chance to emphasize what they’ve learned in class.
“I’m fascinated by the stars, knowing where they are, and recognizing different constellations in the sky,” said Amy Beard, a senior physics and math major who has been attending Star Watch since she was a freshman. “Going to Star Watch helps me remember what I may have forgotten and keep up my general knowledge of astronomy.”
The star watching tradition began in 1972 and has been meeting informally since then. According to Chris Hansen, chair of the Physics and Engineering Department, it was in the fall of 2009 that it was officially given the name Star Watch. All students, faculty, staff, and community members are welcome to join in the experience. The next Star Watch takes place on October 7.
For more information contact the Physics and Engineering Department at 423.236.2669.