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NASA astrophysicist, astronomy enthusiasts featured at virtual Star Party

The College of the Canyons Canyon Country Campus holds an annual Star Party event on campus with many different activity tables, viewing areas, and a portable planetarium. 

The Fall Star Party, which occurred on Oct. 23, was Episode 1 of a two-part series of Science Talks and was held online.

The event featured guest speaker Dr. Padi Boyd, Chief of Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Star Party attendees also watched science-focused, student-led demonstrations and explored the skies with local astronomers’ telescope viewing. 

Ryan Theule, Vice President of the Canyon Country campus introduced the event. 

“For us, this isn’t possible tonight, but we are nonetheless really excited to bring you this event virtually and pioneer some new ways of staying connected and engaged, even in this strange 2020 year,” said Theule. 

Teresa Ciardi, a professor of Astronomy and Physical Science at College of the Canyons introduced the special guest speaker Dr. Boyd, who is based North Carolina. Boyd began by sharing a song that she and a group of scientists, engineers, and STEM teachers, a group called “The Chromatics,” made. She then went on to talk about telescopes, galaxies, stars, and different space missions in great detail.

Campus Dean Anthony Michaelides then introduced Dave Flynn, a member with the Local Group Astronomy Club of Santa Clarita Valley. 

“The Local Group Astronomy Club Santa Clarita is your local group astronomy club. We’ve been around since 1984, started by a group of COC students. We’ve been providing educational outreach for schools, scouts, and the general public for over 30 years now,” said Flynn at the event. 

“We also host quarterly star parties at Vasquez Rocks,” he continued, “we participate in various civic activities such as the Placerita Canyon Nature Center open house, the Great American Campout at Central Park and the annual Astronomy Day celebration with the Santa Clarita Public Library.”

Flynn then went on to show many different telescopes that some of the members of the club own. He showed viewers simple telescopes and then more extravagant high-tech telescopes to explain the difference. He provided the virtual crowd with a number of pictures that have been taken through a telescope. 

Dave Flynn shares a picture of the moon at the College of the Canyons Star Party on Oct. 23.

The Star Party neared its end with a compilation of videos that students created. The videos consisted of different experiments that the students were conducting, along with an introduction as to why they were interested in the STEM field and science overall. 

“This was our first Star Party in a virtual format, and the results were stellar,” Michaelides said after the event. “With over 100 people in attendance, the speakers were informative and the content was amazing.” 

The next Science Talks event will be held on December 4 from noon-1:30 p.m.  It will feature a panel of COC’s Biology faculty discussing COVID-19, the science behind vaccines and herd immunity. More information will be available at www.canyons.edu/ccc

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