By Natasha Ong (20S03R), Chairperson and Shao Yang (20S06J), Academics IC
It has been said that astronomy is a lonely endeavour, a soul-searching in the pitch dark of night of some remote corner of the Earth under the embrace of the starry sky. Well, it is certainly an inimitable pleasure for many of us to marvel at the grandeur at the night sky—to partake in the oldest of all the natural sciences, to look up at the very same stars our hominid ancestors must have wondered at hundreds, thousands, even millions of years ago. It is then frequently asked: What use is this pointless pursuit in one of the most light-polluted, busiest cities on Earth where all we see at night are street lamps, shopping malls, and tutorials? It may seem to many that astronomy is completely disconnected from the hustle and bustle of our fast-paced lives, and you’d be forgiven for thinking as such.
For us, who make a conscious effort to stay back late every week to attend sessions, astronomy is way more than an obligation to fill our time, way more than simply a respite from the burdens of school life. It is not only a solitary communion with the stars, a moment of self-reflection and awestruck amazement at the beauty of the universe, but a session of sharing, of discovering our interests with like-minded peers, of acquiring knowledge—from as esoteric as the mythologies behind the constellations to as fundamental as the origins of the cosmos to as technical as how to collimate a telescope.
After all, we are astronomers. We are a group of people with a burning passion, rooted in the very starstuff we are made of. We are a niche yet diverse group of people; astrobiologists interested in life beyond us, astrophysicists interested in the intricacies of the universe, practical astronomers and astrophotographers that find beauty within our universe. Yes—you may say that it is an impractical CCA. Yes—you may say that it is exhausting. And yes—you may say that it is pointless.
But for those that look up, we know that it is worth it. For those who have ever looked at Jupiter’s flowing cloud bands and Great Red Spot, for those that have marvelled at Saturn’s rings and the craters on the moon, we know that it is well worth it. Those tiring nights spent lifting scopes, the nights mulling over equations on a book, the nights spent with other like-minded people; well that’s just part of the fun, isn’t it? Even in the multitude of competitions, carnivals and community outreach events we organise, we know that sharing this joy brings us the greatest joy of all.
Moon and Jupiter (and galilean moons) seen through a telescope used in our weekly sessions.
On top of weekly sessions, Astronomy Club also has several important events throughout the year that you can look forward to. Competitions like Singapore Astronomy Olympiad (SAO), NYP Astronomy Quiz and NUS-NTU AstroChallenge are great avenues for members to gain experience. Intensive training outside of CCA hours is also provided for SAO, catering to those who are already familiar with astronomy and astrophysics concepts and would like to push themselves to greater heights. In addition, we organise Astrigue with Hwa Chong Institution for secondary school students. Other than competitions, we also plan AstroNite, a family friendly carnival and stargazing session for the general public to broaden their horizons in the field of astronomy and to spark interest in astronomy in our younger audience. We have also started to branch out into Values in Action through organising astronomy-related events for the general public as well, to spread our love and knowledge for this topic.
To end off, we would like to share with all readers this poignant quote by Carl Sagan, which to us perfectly encapsulates the depth, the pleasure, and the hope that astronomy ultimately brings to all of us. We hope to have the fortune of inviting all who are enthralled by the wonders of the universe to our club in time to come.
RI Astronomy Club welcomes you aboard this journey through the stars, regardless of your background. Join us for an out-of-this world experience!