Star Party provides out-of-this-world opportunity
Ascending a rusty narrow staircase along the side of the OU Observatory, one reaches a roof open to the night sky.
Chelsea Lott, The Oklahoma Daily
A dozen bystanders look upward through the chilly night air into the clear sky sprinkled with stars.
No one makes a sound as they gaze up.
These were attendees of the first OU Star Party, hosted Feb. 15 by astrophysics professor Mukremin Kilic and astrophysics graduate student Sara Barber.
Kilic had to cancel the first two parties because of cloudy skies and cold weather, but parties are scheduled for every Wednesday for the rest of the semester, excluding March 21 and depending on weather, according to its website.
Barber currently researches constellations and telescopes and teaches a class at OU, she said.
“I was the only one given permission to use the telescope as part of my research,” she said. “As other students are learning from me ... we decided to host these star parties to allow the public and OU students the opportunity to see through the telescope and those things that you just see in books,” Barber said.
Guests can look at constellations, planets and galaxies at a high magnitude, she said.
The telescope is highly computerized with higher optics and uses curved mirrors to reflect light and form an image.
This allows for a clearer look at Andromeda and the Orion Nebula.
Andromeda and Orion are constellations, and a nebula is a cloud of dust and gas.
Through the telescope, both appear milky white and fluorescent.
Aside from using the 16-inch telescope, two 8-inch telescopes are positioned to look at Jupiter, Venus and the moon, Barber said.
The classic rings of Jupiter and the bright glow of Venus pop through the telescope.
“It differs from month to month on what you can see,” Kilic said. “Most of the time, you can see Venus, Jupiter and its rings, the stars in Orion Nebula and Andromeda. It’s pretty cool and interesting to see what changes happen depending on the time of the season.”
University College freshman and previous employee of The Daily Molly Evans said she is in a general astronomy class and wanted to attend the previous parties that were canceled.
“It’s interaction for the public, but it’s also a learning opportunity, and it’s part of my research,” Barber said. “This is a really good experience.”