News and Tribune

April 28, 2014

OUT OF THIS WORLD: Silver Creek students view the cosmic back yard

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

SELLERSBURG — The sun hadn’t dropped over the horizon just yet. For the first time on Friday, Kelsey Harstrom looked through the eyepiece of a telescope that was bigger than she was.

There, she saw a banded sphere with a few dots surrounding it. It was Jupiter and four of its moons, about 518,000,000 miles away from where she stood.

“There’s such a big universe and world outside of ours, it’s just amazing to me,” Harstrom, a junior at Silver Creek High School, said. “We’re just so small and to see all of the other creations that are out there, you can’t just do that every day. That’s so special to me.”Members of the Louisville Astronomical Society brought several telescopes out for a group of earth space science students from the school. They shared views of planets, nebulae and other celestial bodies.

Valerie Anderson, earth space and chemistry teacher at the school, said studying about the solar system is one way to learn, but getting a glimpse at our cosmic neighbors really helps bring a dose of reality to the concepts.

“We learned about how Mars is visible right now and we were interested to see if there’s anything else they could see,” Anderson said.

Mike Sellers, a member of the society, said in the last eight years he’s hosted three events like that. He gave students star charts and helped them figure out where they might expect some of the stars he had mapped out.

He said though he’s come to the school just a few times, he’s given others lots of chances to look through a telescope. Set up outside Chillers every now and then, he said people are usually interested in finding out what they can see.

“It’s mixed, but some kids are absolutely blown away,” Sellers said. “Especially kids who have never looked through a telescope before.”

Chase Cape, a junior at the school, said he’s had a  big interest in astronomy since he was a kid. In the third grade, he got a telescope and even made a close friend after a visit to a planetarium.

Armed with answers to most of Sellers’ questions, Cape said he learned a lot of what he knows on his own time.

“I’ve just always been fascinated by the stars,” Cape said. “As a kid, I always wanted to be an astronaut, it’s just kind of one of those big childhood dreams.”

But between the experts and the beginners, Harstrom said she hopes her first look through a telescope isn’t her last.

“I’ve always wanted to [get a telescope] as a kid, I never had one of my own,” she said. “I loved this experience and hope to do more of it.”