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Friday, September 18, 2020


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Astronomy club will return to campus in the fall after several-year hiatus

Nicole Walker, WC ’19, and Kirsten Elofson, WC ’19, are reviving the University of Richmond's astronomy club for the fall 2017 semester after a several-year hiatus.

UR's first astronomy club ended a few years ago when Ted Bunn, chair of the physics department and the original club's sponsor, went on sabbatical, Walker said.

Bunn has since returned to campus, and Walker and Elofson selected him to be the faculty sponsor of the astronomy club again. Walker and Elofson said they hoped to be more organized so that the club could sustain itself even after they graduate.

“We want to go way beyond Richmond,” Elofson said. “Starting an astronomy club will pop the UR bubble and can really open up people [to the world of astronomy].”

Walker and Elofson said that they already had several events planned for the fall semester.

Astronomy Day, which will take place on Sep. 30, will be an event featuring different speakers, Walker said. Both student researchers and professors in astronomy, cosmetology and astrophysics fields will put on a mini-conference for the club, she said.

On Oct. 21, Walker hopes to take the club to the Langley Research Center, a NASA field center located in Hampton, Virginia, for its 100th anniversary. The Langley Research Center is only open to public tours once every five years, Walker said.

In addition to the trip to the research center, Oct. 21 also marks the peak of the Orionid, a meteor shower that the club will watch to end what Elofson called “an amazing day of star-geekery.”

The astronomy club plans on meeting every two weeks but will mostly focus on big astronomy events. The club's interest meeting, which took place on April 27, had about 20 students present, Walker said. Those students expressed interest in having as many guest speakers as possible and getting to use the telescope in the Gottwald Science Center frequently, Walker said.

To recruit new members, Walker and Elofson have placed an ad in SpiderBytes and plan to obtain student organization status as soon as possible so they can have tabling rights in Tyler Haynes Commons. They also plan on having a table at SpiderFest, an event that happens every fall and allows students to join new clubs and organizations. 

Students should join the astronomy club because if you look hard enough into space, you can see a whole other universe with its own mysteries, Elofson said.

Contact contributor Caitlin Helsley at

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