Kitt Peak observers are quite used to seeing the smiling excited faces
of astronomy students, physics students, and even elementary school children who
have not yet realized that science requires calculus. But Biology students??????
Well,...yes. UBRP students (and one lost planetary science student) had the rare
opportunity to crossover to the "other side" with a trip to Kitt Peak observatory
where we were able to explore the facility and the heavens with our very own tour
guide, Dr. Raymond White.
This was a great experience that I was not expecting to receive through my
association with the UBRP program. We start with the most important scientific
principle: People love to eat! So..we all had dinner sitting on the rocks and
watching the sun set. Here, we learned our first facts of the night: (1) There
is some rich guy with a telescope up on the mountain that does not work, and it
is probably just a hot tub anyway. (2) If you see a green flash while the sun is
going down, you can be trusted in all matters of the heart, and (3) higher
elevations are REALLY cold!
After dinner, we ran back to the warmth of the visitor's center and learned about
stars, planets, and galaxies. We also learned how to navigate through the night
sky. Then armed with our free laser pointers and trusty starfinders, we again
braved the cold. The stars were ready to put on a show. We learned how to find
the north star, southern cross, summer triangle, several prominent
constellations, and even a couple of planets. Now that we were experts, we got
some nice, hot coffee (caffeinated of course) and headed into the telescope dome.
Along with some soothing music, we were able to experience astronomy first hand.
We saw Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, and even some galaxies. It was a pretty
spectacular ending to the night.
As a student doing research in biology, I look through a lot of lenses though
usually they are attached to a microscope. While it was fun to see stars and
planets and learn about a different area of science, there was something more
important to my experience. I realized that the basic principles that rule all
worlds have the same profound yet simple affect on a person whether one is
looking up or down, making things large or small, because our world is
Eric Shen, UBRPer in Dr. Ward's lab, Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Alyssa
Sarid, UA Undergraduate Physics Major