Staring into the starlight

Most of the stars that can be seen in smoggy Los Angeles are the ones that line the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But, on occasion, a stellar view of the heavens is made possible by technology pointed at the stars.

Telescope Night, hosted on the observation deck at the Center for the Sciences, invites the Pierce College community to gather around eight-inch reflecting telescopes and learn about astronomy.

For about three years, the event has gone uninterrupted by clear skies. However, Monday’s Telescope Night got clouded out by overcast skies.

Despite this obstacle, students who attended had a successful night, according to astronomy professor Dale Fields.

“We still did get a chance to get some good views of the moon, and we got a good chance to actually watch the space station fly overhead,” Fields said. “The fact that we got clouded out once is not that bad.”

Astronomy students helped man the telescopes and kept them pointed at the stars and planets as Earth moved.

Joshua Becker, head astronomy tutor, has been participating in telescope night for three years. At each event, he is responsible for getting as many working telescopes out on the observation deck as possible.

“I get to see everyone in the community come here and just freak out about the stuff they see. I get to look at it all the time, but these people, for the first time, get to watch their minds be blown by astronomy,” Becker said.

Fields said that the most rewarding factor in the Telescope Night events is to reach those who have never used a telescope before.

“You get a chance to see the moon or Saturn’s rings and know that this is not just some kind of fantasy – that this is a real thing. It is just one of the most beautiful things. The reality of it is something that cannot be denied,” Fields said.

Community member Michal Fontboa heard about the event from a friend who is currently taking astronomy classes at Pierce.

“I think it is great because, as people, we need to continue learning as much as possible. To have these free resources is something that not everyone has access to,” Fontboa said.

The astronomy department holds two Telescope Nights and two indoor planetarium shows per semester. The events are always free and open to the public.

“Expect us to always have things that you can see up there in the sky ‒ the moon, some planets, maybe a couple of galaxies or a cluster of stars – so you can always find something to look upward at and get a little bit of your imagination stoked,” Fields said.