Witnessing our many distant planets isn’t always feasible, but with Professor Frey’s weekly free observations on Wednesdays by the Cypress College pond, every student has the opportunity.
In an email sent out by Cypress College, a posting was listed about the first Planet Observation this semester to be hosted on campus. Astronomy Professor Michael Frey and the SEM Division focused their telescopes on Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter by the campus pond on September 5, 2018, at 8:20 p.m.
Professor Michael Frey is one of the many faculty working within the Astronomy Department at Cypress College. Before settling at Cypress College, Frey worked several years doing, as he puts it, “government research under a defense program- if I told you anymore, I’d have to kill ya,” and has been lecturing on and studying Astronomy from as early as junior high school and high school- eventually attending the University of Arizona.
The night was clear- the location, centered around the pond on campus, ideal; the low-light setting suited for planet observation. Frey and the SEM Division encourage anyone to “come by and check out the telescopes…we want people to see us and see what we are doing”.
As Professor Frey says, the planet observation is a “star party”. There were six telescopes present, all varying in size; one of which was an donated Edison Power Company telescope valued at “seven thousand dollars.” All telescopes were available and free for use to attendees who were curious to see Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Jupiter’s surrounding Galilean moons. Before the observation, Professor Frey gave a brief introduction, then a laser pointer guided observation on the surrounding stars and their names, such as the visible Vega Star, Altair Star, and the Deneb Star which all form what is known as the “Summer Triangle”. Afterwards, the roughly 20 students in attendance gathered around to see the planets, especially Mars, which was seen at a greater depth than normal due to the clarity of the night and proximity.
Professor Frey is trying to host nightly observations every week or as the weather permits. For something that is both informative and free, it’s worth the opportunity to take the time to see something we see everyday in greater detail. As Professor Frey states, observing our Solar System “doesn’t take a second, it takes a moment…this is reality, not something Hollywood wants us to show us”.