CCA Previews ’21: Astronomy Club

By Raffles Astronomy Club 

What is Astronomy?

Junior College is a time for self-discovery, big questions about life (where am I going after my A-levels?) and developing new interests. One of humanity’s most basal interests, ever since we lifted our heads up to gaze at the sky, has been stars. 

As humans learnt more about them and tracked their motions in the night sky, further questions arose, such as “What is our place amongst the stars?” and “Is there life on other planets?” The search for answers continues to this day. 

For some, ruminating the deeper implications of the known universe serves as a way to extricate themselves from the tangle of their busy lives. When we realise how small and insignificant we are compared to the scale of the universe, all our troubles suddenly seem so trivial and meaningless. Others may be fueled by a deeper desire for knowledge – the intrinsic urge to come up with explanations for things we cannot understand. Some may say our generation was born too late to explore the Earth, and born too early to explore the universe, and this is probably true, but it has not stopped us from trying anyway. And it is this struggle to learn as much as we can about things as far as thousands of light years away from us, all while stuck on a tiny ball of rock hurtling through space around its small parent sun, that is a testament to the sheer tenacity and ingenuity of the human spirit in finding the answers to the questions it has set out to resolve. That is what Astronomy is about: understanding the heavens above without being the ability to be there, a Science as embodied by its process as the invaluable results it has yielded for our people. 

Events/activities throughout the year

Throughout the year, Astronomy Club (affectionately referred to as Astro Club) offers a range of activities for our fellow Astronomers. Firstly, we have weekly sessions on Tuesday from 6.30 to 9.30pm. In weekly 2-hour lecture sessions, our members learn about a portion of the vast amounts of Astronomy knowledge accumulated throughout human history. The topics range from the basics (The Solar System, the Sun) to Celestial Mechanics (which deals with the motion of stars across the night sky). In the realm of Astrophysics, we explore General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and Orbital Mechanics. 

Fret not if you are less physics-inclined, for Astronomy is more than solving differential equations and grappling with technical derivations. Astrobiology, Stellar Evolution, Cosmology, and even more philosophical concepts like the Fermi Paradox, also form an integral part of lecture sessions. To enrich our learning, we often have activities such as Kahoot, quizzes, games and even discussions to trigger critical thinking and encourage members to be more actively involved in learning Astronomy factoids. Every session concludes with a 1-hour stargazing session, where we gaze at distant points of light in the sky, reminding us of the vastness of the universe, while honing our practical Astronomy skills on one of the Club’s many telescopes.

If you’re up for a challenge, you may find it your calling to represent our club in national Astronomy competitions, such as the NYP Astronomy Quiz, AstroChallenge and Singapore Astronomy Olympiad. Training and materials are also offered for interested participants.  

Our club also organises various activities to promote Astronomy among members of the public. The annual HCI-RI Astrigue, a one-day event aimed at sparking an interest in Astronomy among secondary school students, is the culmination of the combined effort of Raffles’ and Hwa Chong’s Astronomy clubs. Other events include Astronite, which is usually held at the end of the year, and community outreach events at community centres.

Why should I join the CCA? What are you looking for?

If you are passionate about Astronomy and curious to learn about the workings of the universe, you will find a warm and unique community upon joining Astro Club. After all, we are aspiring astronomers. We are a group of people with a burning passion for the stars, 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, as well as practical astronomers and astrophotographers that find beauty within our universe. 

We welcome and guide all who join, regardless of their prior knowledge, and ensure that no one gets left behind. While there are opportunities for the truly passionate to challenge themselves, the Club is also for those who want to learn and appreciate Astronomy at a more relaxed pace. If you have even an ounce of interest in the subject and wish to enrich your time in RI, look no further, for here you will find people just as passionate as you, united in our quest to explore the cosmos.

With all the nights spent squinting at the skies shrouded by light pollution, lugging our telescopes around for stargazing, and mulling over equations, you may think that Astro Club is an impractical CCA. You may even say that it is exhausting. And you may say that it is pointless.

But for those who look up at the sky, we know it is worth it.

Clockwise from top left: The Moon, Orion Nebula, Jupiter and Galilean moons, M7/Ptolemy Cluster 
(These were taken during some of our stargazing sessions)
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