Stargazers turn their eyes to the skies

DeKALB – Autumn Stewart of Sycamore often has her head in the clouds – or at least, her eyes on the sky.

Autumn, 9, loves astronomy and said she recently visited the Adler Planetarium with her school. At a stargazing party hosted by the Northwest Suburban Astronomy Club in DeKalb May 31, she said she was hoping to see a planet or a galaxy.

"My favorite planet is Saturn, because I like the rings," she said.

At the NSA's public star parties, stargazers use member telescopes and are guided by club members who tell them what they are seeing in the sky. At the DeKalb event, stargazers could see the craters of the moon, globular and open star clusters, nebulae, the galaxies M81 and M82, the polar ice cap of Mars, and a solar eclipse of Jupiter caused by one of its moons, Io.

"Tonight, we were able to see the planets Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars," club member Edith Auchter said. "And, if you look down under your feet, you can see Earth."

According to the The Northwest Suburban Astronomy Club's website, the group formed in 1976 when a few members of the Chicago Astronomical Society decided to form an astronomy club closer to home. With more than 150 members, the Hoffman Estates-based club is one of the largest astronomy clubs in the Midwest.

The club hosts star parties throughout the summer in locations around northern Illinois. The club will meet again at the Afton Forest Preserve on Saturday, Sept. 13.

"There's nothing like looking through a telescope and seeing a live image of the moon, stars, or a planet," said Gordon Garcia, a member of the club since 1981. "It's not the same as seeing it on the Internet."

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