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The Scarlet & Black

Astronomy group looks forward


For nearly three decades, Professor Bob Cadmus, Physics, has provided a collaborative space for astronomy enthusiasts in Grinnell. Cadmus founded Grinnell’s Astronomy Group when some of his summer research students expressed an interest in continuing to meet during the school year. While the Astronomy Group functions much like many other clubs on campus, Cadmus doesn’t like to think of it in those terms. 

“I always thought of it as an equivalent to … when you’re in graduate school [and] you’re in a research group. I always thought of it as my research group meeting,” he said. 

Since then, students have continued to attend weekly meetings with Cadmus and other members of the physics faculty who research focus on astronomy. The students and professors discuss current events related to astronomy in an informal setting with no agenda. Attendees are free to ask questions and explore any relevant topics. 

“No one really knows where it’s going to go when we start,” said Bryson Cale ’16, speaking to the spontaneous and unstructured organization of the group. 

Cale, a physics major who has been a part of the group since he started attending Grinnell, has been interested in astronomy since early in high school. “I want to go to grad school for astrophysics … so I’ve been attending pretty much every meeting I can ever since I came here,” he said. 

Because of the informal nature of the group, there isn’t a specific number of students who are members. 

“An average meeting has anywhere from just a few people … [to] sometimes ten students and professors,” Cale said, who also noted that he has on occasion been the only student to show up. The group has had a recent spike in attendance, leaving Cadmus optimistic about future attendance. 

“Last week we had 11, but that’s a world record. Half a dozen is more typical,” he said.

Although the group as a whole has no set objectives, several members have chosen to further their knowledge with independent projects. 

“There are two students … who are involved with making a telescope. That’s a project that a subset of the whole group is working on,” Cadmus said. 

While the astronomy group does not host any public events, meetings and project participation is open to all students, regardless of previous astronomy or physics experience. 

“Anyone who wants to can [help make] the telescope. Right now we’re at the stage where we’re building the mirror, so there’s a piece of glass and we’re grinding it,” said Sunny Zhao ’18, one of the students working on the telescope project. 

Cadmus is proud of the group’s enthusiasm and accomplishments so far, and is optimistic about the group’s continued success.   

“I’d like [the group members] to feel that they’re being led into the future,” he said.

The group meets every Friday at 4:15 p.m. in Noyce.

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