By Joe Dargan
Some people look to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars.
To the East Los Angeles College Physics and Astronomy Club, founded in 2010, the sky is an infinite source of information, a vast, ever-expanding playground that reveals its treasures to those who are dedicated.
“During our club meetings we try to show our club members everything about physics like experiments, demonstrations, seminars and talks,”Braulio Gomez, the club’s president, said.
“Off campus, we like to do things related to astronomy [as well]. We do these things called star parties where we hook up a bunch of telescopes out in the open and just show them off to the public.”
Due to the idiosyncratic journeys of the known heavenly bodies, the universe is not just an aesthetically pleasing display of light.
It can also be used as an instrument of measurement.
It can give scientists a chronological breakdown of Earth’s celestial history, but can also be used to accurately predict future events by tracking the movements of space inhabitants like comets, asteroids, meteors, stars and planets to name a few.
“During these Star Parties, we’ve seen planets and binary stars,” Gomez said. “Those are cool things. The biggest thing we have ever done was we went to the Mt. Wilson Observatory and rented their 60-inch telescope for the night.
“The things we saw were amazing, man. Star clusters, nebulas, we saw a bunch of things.”
According to Webster’s dictionary, a star cluster is a relatively compact group of stars forming a gravitating unit and containing either not more than a few hundred stars or tens of thousands of stars.
A nebula represents any of numerous clouds of gas or dust in interstellar space.
Inspired by an astronomy hobby he shared with a few friends, Gomez joined the club a year ago.
He said that the stars had always fascinated him since he was young and he had always wondered what was out there.
The club has a little over 30 members, meets every Thursday in B1-103, 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and students do not have to be members to attend.
The meetings usually begin with a powerpoint presentation informing members of upcoming events like seminars, Star Parties and current star news.
Many of its members feel like the group is closer to a family than a school-sanctioned organization.
“I signed up for the Administration of Justice Club and I felt like it was too big and very easy to get lost. [The ELAC Physics and Astronomy Club] is a tight-knit close group.
“You get a chance to get to know more people. It has a comfortable feeling,” Rodrigo Vega, a current club board member, said.
Vega attended the Mount Wilson viewing event and said that the trip not only galvanized the club’s attendees, but it gave him an opportunity to get a glimpse of a star that shares the name Vega.
As a result, he now prefers to be called by his last name full-time.
“When I walked in, the first thing I said was ‘I’ve been looking for a group like this my entire student life.’ It was nice to find a spot on campus that felt like home,” Group member Martha “Marty” Villanueva said.
The ELAC Physics and Astronomy Club has held joint star parties with other clubs like the Priory of Biology and Chemistry (POBC) Club and the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) Club.
At the behest of the Math, Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) Club, they will soon be joining forces with additional Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) clubs for future happenings.
ELAC students interested in any upcoming events can join the ELAC Physics and Astronomy Club at Mt. Wilson’s 100th Anniversary celebration on November 4.
Because the stars come out at night, the event will be held from 2 p.m. until after 2 a.m.