NORMAN — The magical night sky with its billions of galaxies didn’t seem so far away as high school students helped children and their families use telescopes to see the Milky Way. The community gathered for a night with the stars in celebration of National Astronomy Day on Saturday. The Norman North Star Party presented attendees the opportunity for a safe solar viewing, as well as a telescope view of the night sky at Washington Elementary School.
Led by Norman North Astronomy Club, in the afternoon children got the hands-on chance to see the sun as they operated Sunspotters, a child-friendly wooden telescope with sun dial. Club members answered questions and discussed various facts about the sun such as, what sun spots are; how far away the sun is; what causes aurora borealis; and how big the sun is.
Eileen Grzybowski, Norman North astronomy teacher, said the purpose of the event was to peak children’s interest in science and get outdoors.
“We like to share our fun. This is an alternative activity for kids interested in science,” Grzybowski said. “Kids now are so tied to the inside. This is also a chance for them to be in nature. I’m a believer of ‘no child left inside’.”
Community outreach is one of Jonathan Kron’s, Norman North Astronomy Club president, favorite aspects of the club.
“It’s a chance to turn people on to a career path ... or even just a hobby,” he said. “When someone gets excited about what we’re doing, I fell like I’ve accomplished something.”
Additionally throughout the year, the club, with about 25 active members, goes to Cheddar Ranch Observatory, owned and operated by the Oklahoma City Astronomy Club, to view the night sky and identify planets, constellations and more. The club uses telescopes and video astronomy equipment provided by grants through the Norman Public School Foundation. Two week ago, the club saw a fireball (burning meteorite), Kron said.