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Upon arriving at college, it’s challenging to determine which extracurricular activities to engage in beyond the traditional classroom. Regardless of major and academic interests, astronomy is a subject most are familiar with through science classes, the solar eclipse events, space shuttle news and popular figures such as Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Dylan James Pursey, Vice President of the University of Houston’s Astronomy Club, met with Cooglife at the observatory. The dimly lit, yet enchanting space is nested atop of the SR1 building and features an array of advanced telescopes, software and space decor.

James Pursey, a junior studying physics, shared his personal journey into the world of astronomy and discussed the club’s ongoing efforts to appeal to space enthusiasts on campus. This passion for astronomy dates back to his childhood.

“I spent many nights in my front yard with a simple telescope eagerly searching for planets like Jupiter and Neptune,” James Pursey said.

Many of the events hosted by the Astronomy Club mirror James Pursey’s early experiences, with members gathering in the field at night to observe the night sky while engaging in discussion about planets and stars and enjoying the company of like-minded students.

However, a shared struggle among all astronomy enthusiasts residing in Houston is the unpredictable weather which can sometimes interrupt the stargazing trips. 

Recently, there were around 40 students who traveled from Hong Kong to see the solar eclipse that was on everyone’s mind. Unfortunately, due to the cloudy nature of Houston that day, they weren’t able to observe it clearly. One of the efforts to combat this problem is through exploring local dark or dim spots around Houston, away from all the pollution and lights of the city.

 “I am looking forward to very frequent stargazing events, telescope workshops, understanding the sky, being able to locate things in the sky, other kinds of celestial events such as meteor showers,” James Pursey said. “Also working on astronomy research at the observatory with physics professors and students for the members who are into more of the academic side of the field.”

Membership in the Astronomy Club also provides a unique opportunity for students to access high-end telescopes and professional equipment that would otherwise be out of reach due to their high prices and complex details.

“The professional equipment available here can cost up to $1,000 and is accessible to all club members,” James Pursey said.

College is the perfect time to explore interests outside of chosen fields of study or career. Developing a deeper understanding of astronomy not only enhances appreciation for the vast expanse of the universe but also fosters a diverse knowledge base beyond the traditional classroom setting that enriches personal growth and engagement.

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