First-Year Seminar Students Enjoy Stargazing and S’mores

By Purnell T. Cropper | October 1, 2010

By Jennifer Sargent ’14



On Tuesday, September 14, two of the First-Year Seminar classes went on a field trip together. The Night Skies of Pennsylvania, taught by Dr. Julia Plummer, and Travel to the Stars: Science Fiction From Star Trek, Star Wars, and Beyond!, taught by Bill Meiers, got on a bus and headed to Pipersville, Pa. Their destination was Arcadia alum Lauren Regan’s house and observatory.

Since her house was in a rural area, there was not as much light pollution as there is here in Glenside and students were able to see more stars than they could from Arcadia. Stars that aren’t visible here were visible in Pipersville, and the sky was absolutely filled with stars. Students pointed out constellations and asterisms (a group of stars that isn’t an official constellation) that they already knew, learned about new ones, and one student even pointed out an unscheduled satellite fly-by.

We identified the Summer Triangle, an asterism including the stars Vega, Deneb, and Altair. We were also able to see The Milky Way, which goes right through the Summer Triangle. “I really liked being able to see the Milky Way between the Summer Triangle” says Jackie Sliben ’14 a student in The Night Skies of Pennsylvania seminar. “It was really cool.”

We were also able to see the Big Dipper, and from that we could find the North Star.  The North Star can be found by drawing a line from the two stars on the edge of the ladle and extending it upwards.

Once we were done looking at the constellations, the bonfire was started and the students made  s’mores. Plummer took groups of five or six students into the observatory. The telescope was pointed at the moon and we were able to see craters very close up. Plummer even aimed the telescope at Jupiter, and three of its moons came into view.

All in all, the field trip was a great success.  Everyone got a chance to experience something new and some even got to learn about new things, such as the asterisms and constellations. Students in The Night Skies of Pennsylvania seminar were able to apply what they learned in class, and students in Science Fiction from Star Trek, Star Wars, and Beyond! were able to learn some new things.