Students stargaze with passion for astronomy


Photo courtesy of Rochus Hess/Wikimedia Commons

Photo of the Orion nebula taken in Austria. Students a part of Astrobiology Club get the opportunity to bond over stargazing.

By Aidan Finn, Staff Writer

A group of students ventured beyond a desolate country road half an hour north from campus with nothing but passionate determination for discovery and an ample supply of fruit snacks in the dead of night. 

Atop a hill of rocky debris, the astrobiology club set up monitors, cameras and constellation-connecting phone applications to look up at a clear night sky with full view of an abundant star field. 

Gautam Dayal, freshman in LAS and member of the Illinois Space Society on campus, said he’s been passionate about space since he was young.

“I just stuck with it,” Dayal said. “I feel like it’s very dependent on the people you talk to, if they’re interested in science and that kind of thing. I kind of lost it till I came back to this university.” 

Many students atop the hill were more interested in the sheer beauty of the stars away from light pollution.

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Michael Rizk, freshman in Engineering, said he’s excited to have seen the stars.

“I’m from Chicago, so I never really see stars,” Rizk said. “I’ve always had an interest in astronomy and stars. I’m not gonna learn about stars, but I hope to get into an industry that studies stuff in outer space.”

Others said stargazing with friends is a highlight.

Henrique Teixeira, freshman in Engineering, sat next to his friend Peiyao Wang. Wang, freshman in LAS, set up a complex outpost of laptops, wires and a camera on the rocks to capture the star field for photo quality better than conventional iPhone footage.

With over three years of stargazing experience, Wang said he found the trip to be a great experience, as well as a costly hobby to get immersed in.

“I’m currently double majoring in astronomy and physics,” Wang said. “My camera, lens, wires, the laptop itself probably makes the most of it. Got it for around $1,500. The fact I can capture a certain point in time and keep it for however long these photos last. It’s always cool to see what’s in the night sky.” 

Underneath the stars, students said they had an evening filled with laughs and perspective.

Ilia Qato, junior in LAS, described her love for the stargazing atmosphere and the natural beauty of space. 

“You look up into the sky, and it just puts everything into perspective,” Qato said. “We treat the universe as something out there, but it’s really that we are a part of the universe.” 

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