Claremont College Students Gather with Keck Faculty to See Rare Astronomical Phenomenon

Earth, Jupiter and the sun rarely move in sync with one another, which is why students from the Claremont Colleges gathered recently to witness a rare astronomical phenomenon. On Oct. 29, these three celestial bodies were perfectly aligned so that students peering through telescopes saw Jupiter at its brightest and clearest.

Professors and staff from the W.M. Keck Science Department of Claremont McKenna College, Pitzer College, and Scripps College hosted the event at Robert J. Bernard Field Station. More than 75 people gazed at the Milky Way through high-definition telescopes which were placed at three different spots.

Scientific Instrumentation Support Technician Walter Cook, Kenneth Pitzer Professor of Physics Stephen Naftilan and Bidushi Bhattacharya, Director of Sponsored Research and Research Programs, stood by a telescope and gave informative talks about Jupiter, Earth and the sun.

Lab Lecturer of Physics Thomas Dershem guided visitors through the night’s activities.

Scripps College student Devika Agrawal said the evening was “magical.”

“I did see Jupiter: a small perfect circle of yellow, with some distinct colorations. I saw three moons around it, too,” said Agrawal, a first-year student majoring in media studies, who is from New Delhi, India. “When I saw this, my first thoughts were about how I suddenly felt so much closer to the planet than I was in reality. It felt amazing to be brought closer to them.”

“It’s not just the beauty of the stars,” said Noriko Iwata, a CMC student studying neuroscience. “It’s the mysteries that make me want to get a closer look.”