By Ryan O’Connell
Arts & Features Editor
Employees of the Christa McAuliffe center hosted a stargazing event in the O’Connor parking lot Jan. 27, giving the community a chance to see Jupiter and the moon in sharp detail.
The event, which is hosted once a month by the staff of the Christa McAuliffe Center, is open to individuals of any age or residence, and gives them a chance to use high-powered telescopes and learn about the celestial bodies.
Suzanne Wright, assistant director of the Christa McAuliffe Center, said she began working at the center five years ago in an internship position. She said she began by creating museum exhibits, and continued working with the McAuliffe Center into her current position.
Wright said community stargazing events have been held once a month for almost a year, and allow members of the public to observe astronomy firsthand for free.
She added stargazing was also a great way to continue teaching while the McAuliffe Center is undergoing renovation.
“Look at the moon, Jupiter, other astronomical objects we have in the night sky. Ask us questions about the universe,” she said. “It’s a way that we can offer programming to the members of our public and our campus community without having to go inside.”
Wright said the McAuliffe Center staff enjoyed seeing people of all ages getting to see the moon in detail for what may be their first time, and how the event was easy to prepare with a high benefit to the community. “It’s just so much fun. It’s always a really positive event,” she added.
She said stargazing events were a great gateway to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for all members of the community.
“It’s a way that we can spread the love of science, astronomy, and STEM to our youngest learners. But also we can serve our campus community offering internships and learning experiences for our students and our faculty,” she said.
Wright added, “Our goal is really just to open our doors to anybody who’s interested in learning more about STEM and provide a venue for them to do that.”
Justine Greenwood, the communications and media coordinator of the McAuliffe Center, began as an intern and slowly transitioned into a full time position. Greenwood is responsible for managing the center’s graphics and website, as well as helping with stargazing nights.
She said stargazing nights have always been fun for her and had good turnouts, adding that they’re a great way to get people introduced to the McAuliffe Center. She added the center usually collaborates with another group at these events, like their partnership with the Framingham Public Library for space week.
Greenwood said the best part of stargazing is “the eureka moment.”
“My favorite part is when - it had just happened - one of the little kids looks into the telescope and goes ‘Wow!’ That’s the best part,” she said.
Greenwood said stargazing helps people who might not otherwise have the outlet to see and access information on astronomy, and “makes it real for them.”
“It’s such a foreign subject to people sometimes, so it’s nice to get people here to actually experience it for themselves,” she added.
She said she facilitates other events for the McAuliffe Center too, and enjoys the diversity of her job. “Sometimes I’m making a mess and sometimes I'm strictly coding on a website,” she said.
Greenwood said she hopes to see people come back after attending events with them. She said it’s fun, educational, and a good way to get to know people who are interested in the same things.
“You can have that little moment that you get excited about something, and there’s no judgment at all,” she said.
Tyler Pare, a freshman Earth science major and stargazing intern at the McAuliffe Center, said he loves studying the universe and stargazing.
Pare added he was in his fourth month as the stargazing intern, and has always been amazed by space, as well as “our position in the universe.”
He said his favorite aspect of stargazing was helping people to see the moon in sharper detail. “Oftentimes it’s the first time seeing it through a telescope,” he said. “So the reactions are just amazing.”