A group of students ventured beyond a desolate country road half an hour north of campus with nothing but a passionate determination for discovery and a plethora of fruit snacks in the middle of the night.
Atop a hill of rocky debris, the Astrobiology Club has installed monitors, cameras, and phone apps that connect to the constellation to watch a clear night sky with a full view of an abundant star field.
Gautam Dayal, a freshman at LAS and a fellow of the Illinois Space Society on campus, said he’s been passionate about space since he was young.
“I just stayed with that,” Dayal said. “I feel like it depends a lot on the people you talk to, if they’re interested in science and that sort of thing. I kind of lost it until I came back to this college.
Many students at the top of the hill were more interested in the beauty of the stars away from light pollution.
First-year engineering student Michael Rizk said he was delighted to have seen the stars.
“I’m from Chicago so I never really see any stars,” Rizk said. “I have always had an interest in astronomy and the stars. I’m not going to learn more about the stars, but I hope to get into an industry that studies things in space.
Others said stargazing with friends was a highlight.
Henrique Teixeira, a first year engineering student, sat next to his friend Peiyao Wang. Wang, a freshman at LAS, set up an intricate outpost of laptops, cables and a camera on the rocks to capture the star field for better photo quality than conventional iPhone images .
With more than three years of stargazing experience, Wang said he found the trip a great experience, as well as an expensive hobby in which to immerse himself.
“I’m currently dual majoring in astronomy and physics,” Wang said. “My camera, my lens, my cables, the laptop itself probably makes the most of it. I got it for around $ 1,500. The fact that I can capture a certain moment in time and keep it for as long as these photos last. It’s always cool to see what’s in the night sky.
Under the stars, the students said they spent an evening filled with laughter and perspectives.
Ilia Qato, a junior at LAS, described her love for the stargazing atmosphere and the natural beauty of space.
“You look skyward and that puts everything in perspective,” Qato said. “We treat the universe like something out there, but it’s really that we are part of the universe.”