By Loh Jia Wei (13S06C), Exco member of the Raffles Astronomy Club
“Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another.” — Plato
Therein lies the allure of astronomy, the study of the language of stars, celestial objects and phenomena beyond the shackles of Earth. Contrary to popular belief, astronomy is not an esoteric discipline for the exclusive few; as Tumblr minions would know, “we are made of star stuff”, and astronomy is more intimately related to our daily lives than we think.
Also contrary to popular belief, astronomers are not dull geeks. So you thought the tagline “Astro Night: come and we’ll see your Uranus” was innovative? How about jokes like “Astronomers, we do it in the dark”?
Tasked with debunking these stereotypes, Astro Night on 17 August 2012 commenced with solar viewing, where Orion Dobsonian (one of the club’s telescopes) was set up to view the Sun in its glorious beauty, down to the sunspots on its surface. When night fell, Chun Hui and Lingyi, the Astronomy Club’s vice-chairperson and secretary respectively, gave an engaging presentation saturated with random astronomy trivia, such as the origin behind the name of the Alpher-Bethe-Gamow paper, a seminal work in physical cosmology (it sounds like “Alpha, Beta, Gamma”). This revealed the fun side of astronomy, an area often downplayed in comparison to the theorems and formula.
Subsequently, Chairperson Oh Wei Shen inducted novices into astronomy as a hobby by giving an introductory talk on the subject, with tips and advices distilled from his wealth of experiences as an astronomy enthusiast. Next, a video that illustrated the relative scale of planets and stars within and beyond the Milky Way was played, which provided a humbling and timely prompt for those present to muse about their place in the large scheme of things. Year 5 Chen Xiang Hui commented that it was a good opportunity to take a break from school stuff and just relax, while Caleb Loo, also a Year 5, added that it was an eye-opener and he had had a great time looking at stars.
The most memorable part of the entire event had to be the viewing of celestial objects through the telescopes. Have you ever felt your heart skip a beat as you looked at the well-defined rings of Saturn and saw for yourself that the gas giant was tilted on its axis? Or have you ever basked in the glory of Mars’ reddish glow? Well, those who came down for Astro Night certainly did. It was an out of the world experience to scrutinise these planets in such close detail, and think: “The sky truly isn’t the limit”.
All in all, Astro Night was a welcome reprieve from the heat of the rolling world.