Students, faculty and astronomy lovers gathered once again atop the hills for an evening “Star Party” at College of the Canyons’ Canyon Country campus on Oct. 28.
The semi-annual event was held for its 25th time and welcomed Albion H. Bowers, former chief scientists at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, as its guest speaker.
Bowers’ presentation focused on the advances of fast interplanetary flight and aero gravity assist, technologies used on spacecrafts and projects such as Voyager, Pioneer, and New Horizons.
Bowers is also an expert in most things having to do with aeronautical engineering and physics, something that Ryan Theule, vice president at COC’s Canyon Country Campus, said was valuable knowledge to be shared amongst the young scientists there.
“As he shared a little bit tonight, bringing that aeronautical and aerospace expertise to both domestic flight – in terms of how planes fly from city to city – but also interstellar travel and what those principles are and how they can kind of work together,” said Theule. “So he can think big, interstellarly and he can also think locally. Like, what it’s like to fly between cities and how to make that faster.”
Theule said having guest speakers such as Bowers, who can explain things in specific scientific terms or layman’s terms, is encouraging – since the event draws a wide spectrum of attendees.
“What we love about our Science Talks events like the Star Party, is that you have that spectrum of students all the way from an elementary school kid, who wants to ask the speakers if the moon made of cheese to, the very technical, scientifically-savvy student who’s close to transfer and heading off or maybe already working in an internship and is asking a really specific question and the event accommodates all of that,” said Theule. “The touch and feel tables and displays that you’ve seen around kind of bring that science fair vibe that really makes it engaging and I think that’s why the speakers like coming here because they know that there’s an audience that wants to engage and ask questions and touch and feel their way to what their next journey in science education might look like”
Like Star Parties of the past, COC students had their various projects on display, as Theule said in a “science fair vibe,” with some taking up the mantle from last semester when a team of COC science students were able to compete against university-level students for spots on NASA platforms, which sent four of their experiments to space.
The guest speaker seemed to have a lasting impression on some of the students — some were even star-struck.
“It’s surreal to be in the same presence,” said COC science student Arely Castillo. “Coming from my background, I’ve never met anyone who’s a NASA scientist. So I guess it’s almost like impostor syndrome being in the same area as them. So it’s really cool, and seeing that there are people out there, it’s almost like a fairy tale that there’s NASA scientists like there. They actually exist and they’re here.”
“It’s rewarding, that’s why we did it,” said Anthony Michaelides, dean of COC’s Canyon Country Campus. “We’re bringing speakers, you get students who are coming that are excited. The community probably is the one who benefits the most because they’re sitting there listening to this talk and they’re going, ‘How did they get this guy to come to a community college?’”
In addition to the clubs’ showcases and Bowers’ presentation, there were once again a variety of telescopes – further away from all the light pollution in the heart of the SCV – brought by local amateur astronomy groups for attendees to look through.