Thinking back on my last three semesters I have always found time to go out with friends but I haven’t explored LA as much as I would have liked. This past weekend I was able to visit one of the places I have had on my bucket list for a while, the Griffith Observatory. SEDS – Students for the Exploration and Development of Space – organized its members to attend the monthly Star Party at the observatory. Astronomers from around the area come out at night and bring their telescopes with them. People can walk around the observatory and see different constellations while listening to the professionals talk about them.
It was an amazing experience, being able to take a closer look at the moon, the reddest star in the Milky Way, and Orion’s Sword, to name a couple. If I hadn’t chosen engineering, my next option would have been to become an astrophysicist, so to see the stars up close and learn about them from extremely knowledgable individuals was exciting for me. I was over the moon (please forgive my terrible pun, I couldn’t resist) just walking around for a couple of hours under the stars, but believe it or not I had the best time while looking at two TV screens that had been set up there.
After looking through a couple of telescopes I decided to turn my attention to a tent in the middle with two monitors. As I got closer I began to hear beeping sounds coming off the tent but did not understand what was going on. Once there, the two people in charge explained how the sound I was hearing was a simple communication taking place between their system and satellites orbiting around the observatory. They wrote an application that rotates an antenna depending on the information they obtain on satellite locations and receives messages from those satellites.
The best part was being able to ask them questions about how the program works and even though I was not able to understand everything they were saying I was able to pick up on most things and ask for clarifications. I found out both of them are engineers at the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) and had decided to create the program for fun during their spare time. Also, one of the two people was able to listen to the first satellite he helped build with their program. Going to the Star Party reminded me of why I am studying to be an engineer and was a great start to the semester.