By Seth Mauzy
Photos by Jake Lacey/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Media arts freshman Zach Davis looks through the 21-inch refractor telescope at the Steward Observatory during a public observing session Wednesday. Davis and other students in general astronomy courses are required to make several observations as part of their coursework.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Cool evening temperature, activities lure students outdoors
The days on campus are filled with crowds of bustling students hurrying to classes under the unrelenting Tucson sun. But when the sun goes down, the pace slows and many students find it the perfect time to work out, study or just take it easy.
"I'm out here a couple nights a week," said Peter Khoury, an undeclared freshman, between tosses of a light-emitting flying disc. "It's less crowded and the weather's better."
Most evenings, the UA Mall is filled with students engaged in various casual sports, including touch football and soccer.
Students who prefer to watch their sports on TV are inclined to head underground to Cellar in the Student Union Memorial Center to watch Monday Night Football on the big screen.
"We come down pretty much every Sunday and Monday for the games," said Brendan Williams, a journalism freshman. "I like it here at night. The lines are shorter, but mostly we come for the big screen."
Across from Cellar, other students relax over a game of pool or pingpong inside the game room.
"During classes it's pretty casual in here," said Angela McNeese, a studio arts junior who has been working as a game room attendant for about a month. "After 8 or 9 everybody shows up."
Other students take advantage of the cooler temperatures and shorter lines and head over to the Student Recreation Center for some exercise.
"I usually come here in the evenings to run on the treadmill," said Alison Bacon, an undeclared freshman. "It feels a lot more relaxed in here at night. It's less crowded and the mood here is really calm."
Some students use the evenings to catch up on their studying and reading.
Many head to the UA Main Library and Manuel T. Pacheco Integrated Learning Center for a place to study or a computer to use, but a few spend their evenings at the Science-Engineering Library.
"There's a fairly steady number of people here until about nine," said John Miller-Wells, who has been working evenings at the Science-Engineering Library information desk for three years. "After that it's just a few science students who are here a lot. It's probably the quietest place to study on campus."
For some natural sciences students, studying involves much more than reading books and journal articles. For them, the Steward Observatory is open during the evening to help students whose assignments come straight from the night sky.
Josh Nelson and Sonia Rapaport spend a few nights a week as telescope operators, sitting in a dark, red-lit room guiding the massive telescope's gaze across the sky and explaining to students what they are seeing.
"We usually have four shifts of eight to 10 students," said Nelson, an astronomy junior who has been working at the observatory for three years. "They mostly come with specific assignments, and we help them locate things like stars, nebulas and planets for their homework."
The observatory is open at night to students from 7 to 8:30 Monday through Thursday. After that, the telescope is open to the general public.
"We get a very good public crowd; space has a very large interest factor," Nelson said. "We had an observing of the Deep Impact probe that drew about 50 to 70 people. It was packed in here."
Rapaport is a studio arts junior who has been working evenings at the observatory for two years. She said that all manner of stargazers come up during the public viewings.
"One time we had a Mayan elder here a while ago," Rapaport said. She said that though he was knowledgeable about astronomy, he had never looked through a telescope until that night.
"It was pretty cool," Rapaport said. "You could tell he was very impressed to have a different view of something he was already familiar with."