Local stargazers club wants you to look up

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published August 17, 2016

FARMINGTON HILLS — A new club, the Farmington Community Stargazers, has something for you to see in the sky.

Just ask Farmington Hills resident Anish Nagpal, 29, who saw Saturn up close last year.

“The first time when I looked through the telescope … it gave me goosebumps,” Nagpal said recently. “Looking at the rings of Saturn …  you read about it, you’ve seen the pictures, but it doesn’t compare when you look through your own eyes. It is a different feeling.”

The IT consultant wants others to experience the same feeling while looking up at the universe during star parties at Heritage Park hosted by the Farmington Community Stargazers. The club — which regularly meets at the Farmington Community Library 12 Mile Branch — began last year after Jesse Mason, a part-time physics instructor at Eastern Michigan University, gave a slide presentation on the 25th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope launch. The presentation was initially prepared for Oakland Community College astronomy students.

“I thought it would be cool to present that to the public, rather than just the students,” said Mason, who also brought his telescope that day. “It was such an overwhelming response.”

Mason said over 100 people showed up to the library to learn about the Hubble images, and that is when he decided to launch the astronomy club.

“Clearly, this community wanted to do something astronomical,” Mason said. “Since then, about a dozen people sort of formed the core of this, and we’ve been focusing on our monthly star parties at Heritage Park ever since.”

The hope of the group is for astronomy outreach to promote scientific literacy in the community, according to farmlib.org. This summer, Stargazers is discussing the club’s structure, planning star parties and sharing astronomical events.

The club meets the last Tuesday of every month at the FCL, and the second Tuesday of the month at Heritage Park.

The group meets at sunset on Sled Hill, and as soon as the sun sets they look at planets, stars and more through telescopes.

“We’ve been having a quarter moon; that is the easiest thing to show people, then the stars and the planets,” Mason said. “When it gets dark enough … then we grab a green laser and give them a tour of the sky, pointing out constellations and objects of interest like certain stars.”

Mason said that he thinks members of the community have become interested in the group because of the science that is behind sky watching.

“I think just an appreciation for the science that goes into the things that they learned at the event, and that sense of wonder that comes with contemplating the universe,” he said.

“You need to say you want to be a member, and you are a member,” Mason added.

Judy Donlin, Farmington Community Library adult services librarian, said that at the library recently, Mason hosted a discussion on the story of the universe.

“(We’re) trying to find different ways to bring (the public) to the library and keep the interest,” Donlin said. “The nice thing about the astronomy program is it is interesting for all ages.”

Nagpal said his interest for astronomy has always been there.

“I was always interested and curious about the universe — what is up there. This was like a springboard to that hobby,” he said of the club.

The next Stargazers meeting will be at 7 p.m. Aug. 30 at the Farmington Community Library 12 Mile Branch. There will also be a star party Sept. 13 at Heritage Park.

For more information, search for the Farmington Community Stargazers on Facebook, or send an email to farmingtonstargazers@gmail.com.