In the Georgia Regents University classroom on the Summerville campus Friday night, 10 members of the Astronomy Club of Augusta worked in groups of three and four to ask questions to answers like, “This is the range of LEO (Lower Earth Orbit) in miles.”
The grid on the projector screen held categories and point values, similar to the Jeopardy! television game show.
Michael Axel, 14, shook his soda bottle adorned with jingle bells, which served as a makeshift buzzer.
“What is 100 to 1,200 miles,” he said, scoring another 400 points for his team.
The Westminster freshman and his family have been members for more than a year. He said he’s always been interested in astronomy, and facts about various aspects of the science come easy for him because “things just stick.”
“It’s big and interesting,” he said of space. “I don’t know, it’s just interesting.”
The Astronomy Club of Augusta was formed in 1986.
Friday, as the club members worked through the board during their January meeting, they interjected tidbits of information and discussed a variety of topics relating to space, the planets, their moons, and the sun.
The game is played only once a year.
The rest of the year, the club meets every two weeks. The first meeting is held either in the science building on the GRU Summerville campus or at the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center at the University of South Carolina Aiken. It includes presentations or guest speakers on various astral topics and refreshments. Then members head outside to look at the moon.
The second meeting takes place on president Tedda and Stan Howard’s farm near New Ellenton for dark sky stargazing.
For example, on Jan. 25, members will look at the constellations, the Winter Hexagon, and Jupiter, according to the calendar on their Web site.
The club holds other events centered on celestial events, like the annual club picnic in August. Members who wish to stay overnight can watch the Perseid Meteor Shower. Peak viewing hours are between 2 and 4 a.m., Howard said.
The club is also active in outreach efforts. One of the largest is its participation in Science Education Enrichment Day at the University of South Carolina Aiken.
“They’re attracting more and more students every year. The programs are getting wonderful,” she said. “We teach the little kids about the electromagnetic spectrum. Then we teach them the rainbow colors in order in crayon sets.”
On Friday, she read a certificate of recognition from NASA the club just received for its contribution to the community.
Kenneth Beard, the vice president of programming, joined the club nearly three years ago. He wanted to write a science fiction story that takes place in space, but needed to learn more about it.
He found the Astronomy Club and has been a member ever since.
“Most of it is way over my head,” he said. “I’ve got a few clues here and there. (Other members) have been greatly helpful,” he said.
Howard said people who are interested in beginning astronomy should not run out and buy a telescope, but should consider joining a club instead.
“You don’t want to buy a cheap telescope. It only leads to frustration, and then people don’t observe anymore,” she said. “What we encourage people to do is find the most experienced people in the local area and join the club. They will have their scopes already. We’re always willing to share and show, and let people learn that way.”
During the dark observation meetings, telescopes are lined up in the fields. Members can observe the same things through different telescopes, or different things through the same telescopes, and learn about the differences in the equipment, she said.
“What you need is somebody to guide and mentor to get you started and help you in certain areas,” she said.
Membership dues are $10 per family per year.
For more information about the club, including a full schedule of events, visit www.angelfire.com/ga/astronomyclubaugusta.