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Students get good look at Jupiter during astronomy open house

In a dark dirt field at the West campus, members of the Phoenix Astronomical Society set up their personal telescopes and aimed the scopes at Jupiter, its moons and various constellations Thursday night.

Paul Schmidtke, an astronomy lecturer at the West campus, partnered with the PAS to welcome students, their friends and families and members of the community to the free astronomy open house event.

Don Boyd, a member of PAS, brought his personal telescope to ASU with the intent of educating and encouraging people to learn more about astronomy.

“It helps introduce people to science in a way that they enjoy,” he said.

Members of PAS directed most of their telescopes toward Jupiter, which shown brightly in the sky without a telescope. Looking through the lens, observers could easily see the red rings or four of Jupiter’s 63 known moons.

Jordan Gerblick, an ASU alumnus who accompanied his friends to the event, said spending time gazing at the stars is fun and reminds him that there is something as huge as the stars or planets to think about.

“It‘s good to have everyone come out and ... get involved in something that’s bigger than us and all of our problems,” he said.

For stargazers such as Gerblick, the magnitude of the stars and planets when viewed through a powerful telescope can be awe-inspiring.

“It’s definitely hard to believe when you first see it because of how far away you know it is,” he said. “It’s crazy that you can actually see it in real time.”

David Rudzki, who is married to an ASU astronomy student, said he appreciated the chance to see the red giant with in the sky and not just in a picture.

“Being able to see Jupiter is something that doesn’t happen very often,” Rudzki said. “It was amazing, amazing. It definitely brings into perspective all the times you’ve seen it in books, newspapers (and) things like that.”

Rudzki said this event made him realize seeing Jupiter or other constellations in such a way is something that may only happen once or twice in a lifetime.

“I’ve never been able to participate in anything like this and it was definitely worth coming out here and spending a few minutes,” Rudzki said.

Psychology junior Stephen Bergeron, who is enrolled in an astronomy course, said he was drawn to the event because of his love of astronomy and the extra credit. Schmidtke promised his Astronomy 112 class an extra credit project worth a week of online quizzes.

“I think it’s really cool (and) you see a lot of Jupiter,” Bergeron said. “You learn a lot. It’s just fascinating.”

Members of PAS use their telescopes and their time to put on events such as this at schools on a regular basis in the name of astronomy. The society is a group of astronomy enthusiasts who take their love of stars to a level beyond a hobby.

ASU West’s Schmidtke has been partnering with PAS to host astronomy open house events twice a year for more than a decade. The next event is scheduled to take place in October.

Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @Melissa152163

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