STEM Spotlight: Astronomy Club

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Michelle Liu

“STEM Spotlight” is a new Aquila repeater showcasing STEM clubs and their initiatives during the pandemic.

by Mark Hu, STEM Editor

STEM Spotlight is a new repeater exploring what clubs at Harker have been doing during remote learning. This week’s featured club is the Astronomy Club, whose goal is to spread knowledge and increase interest in topics regarding astronomy.

The club, which was founded last year by club adviser and upper school physics teacher Dr. Mark Brada and current club presidents Andrew Lu (12) and Arya Maheshwari (12), held various student speaker events and club meetings last year, including an event where club members used Dr. Brada’s solar telescope to view dark spots and faculae, bright spots that appear on the Sun’s surface.

“Talking to people around campus, we realized that sort of fascination for the stars and the universe that we all generally have as children doesn’t quite go away,” Arya said. “We wanted to create a space where people could come and learn about things as mysterious as the universe, so we founded the club through that.”

During remote learning, the club has begun holding various meetings to go over topics and questions from the National Astronomy Olympiad (NAO) and has invited speakers from universities across the country including Yale, Stanford and Caltech to talk about their work and research. Most recently, the club invited Dr. Marla Geha, Director of Yale Telescope resources, who spoke about her work using the Milky Way as a cosmic laboratory.

“The pandemic in a weird way helped us out a little bit because of the virtual mode,” Arya said. “It really opened us up to inviting speakers from a lot of different places which I would say is our main forte right now as a club.”

The club has embraced the virtual format and plans to continue inviting professors “conducting cutting-edge research” as well as preparing for the NAO.

“Because everyone’s in lockdown, the officers played it to their advantage and held a number of great speakers at club meetings. They’ve also held some training sessions for the astronomy olympiad,” Dr. Brada said. “I’ve been really impressed by leadership this year.”

Dr. Marla Geha, Director of Yale Telescope resources, spoke to the Astronomy Club about her work using the Milky Way as a cosmic laboratory. The club has invited speakers from universities across the country including Yale, Stanford and Caltech to talk about their work and research. (Mark Hu)