MTSU Physics, Astronomy Departments host First-Friday Star Parties

MTSU Physics and Astronomy department host First-Friday Star Parties this fall to engage students and the community. (Andrew Wigdor)

Photo by Andrew Wigdor/ Assistant News Editor

Story by Ryan Miller/ Contributing Writer

After a week of cramming for midterms, MTSU’s Physics and Astronomy Department will start fall break with this month’s First-Friday Star Party for students, faculty and members of the community.

This year’s educational series of First-Friday Star Parties began on the first Friday in September, and three more will be hosted on the first Fridays in October, November and December. A board of professors and astronomers including Dr. Chuck Higgins, Dr. Robert Mahurin, Dr. Eric Klumpe and Dr. Irena Perevalova will present a lecture at each Star Party over a series of topics.

The upcoming Star Party topics are as follows:

  • Oct. 7 — “Gravity Waves” (Mahurin)
  • Nov. 4 — “Funky Fizix in Film” (Klumpe)
  • Dec. 2 — TBD, Public Choice Vote (Perevalova)

Each party begins with a 45-60 minute lecture located in MTSU Science Building room 1006 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. After the lecture, students and guests can attend the Telescope Observation at the MTSU Observatory until 8:30 p.m.

Klumpe said he started the Star Party in 1999, and it was intended to be “a regular program that would serve the general population at MTSU and the public.”

He continued to run monthly Star Parties on his own without following a predictable schedule. Klumpe said he often had to adjust the days and dates in the hopes of finding a particular evening in a month that brought in the largest audience.

“In 2001 we hired Dr. Chuck Higgins, and he contributed to the Star Party program almost immediately on his arrival. It was he who came up with the name and concept of the First-Friday Star Party, ” Klumpe said.

Klumpe’s goals of the Star Party for students and audience members are:

  1. “To realize that astronomy is fun.”
  2. “To acquire a fundamental knowledge of astronomy that permits us to better understand astronomical discoveries that we hear about in the news.”
  3. “A desire to continue to be involved in astronomy long after graduation.”

Topics discussed at the First-Friday Star Party range from current events to general topics, which include comets, planets, stars, constellations and black holes. Klumpe said the topics are meant to convey connections between astronomy and popular culture.

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