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P.O. Box 7981
Dallas, TX 75209-0981



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Astronomy is a CLASS Act


Opening Eyes to the Sky

Twelve year-old Trae Wakefield checked out the sky at a recent CLASS Star Party in Dallas. Photos by Michael Ainsworth, Dallas Morning News, August 11, 2003.


"Opening childrenís eyes to the wonders of the night sky is one of the objects of our star parties," said John Wagoner, an amateur astronomer and organizer of the City Lights Astronomical Society for Students in Dallas. Working through the Texas Astronomical Society of Dallas, the local astronomy club in Dallas, and the Astronomical League, Wagoner is instrumental in holding monthly star parties for inner city kids in Dallasí Jubilee Park, a neighborhood in Old East Dallas.

"I wanted to take astronomy into the city and tell young people that they have options for a career in science," John Wagoner went on. "This is an area whose time has come. As amateur astronomers, we really have not served the underserved parts of our community."

Mr. Wagoner works through a national organization, the Astronomical League, to help local astronomical societies set up City Lights chapters. The City Lights Astronomical Society for Students, or CLASS, has registered itself as a member society of the Astronomical League. CLASS founder John Wagoner is also a founding member of the American Association of Amateur Astronomers, and served as its first president.

"At the CLASS Star Parties, we try to at least show them the moon and the planets and then some very beautiful double stars. They are pretty easy to see from a light-polluted area," said Mr. Wagoner.

Three services are offered through the CLASS program. They include a PowerPoint presentation that Mr. Wagoner said "starts at the center of the universe and takes the kids on a tour."

Then thereís a daytime observing session during which kids can see sunspots, the giant storms that rage on the sunís surface. Finally, there are the nighttime telescope observing sessions.

"Kids love looking through a telescope," said Mr. Wagoner. "To them, everything that they see is something thatís on TV; they never realize they could see it live, so to speak."

The CLASS Star Parties in Dallas are held at Jubilee Park on the second Friday of each month in the park at Bank Street and Parry Avenue.

CLASS Star Parties Focus on
Expanding Childrenís Views

AAAA member and CLASS organizer John Wagoner helped Bre-Ana Weaver as she looked at stars during the August 2003 CLASS Star Party at Jubilee Park in Dallas. John Wagoner organized the monthly CLASS star parties to bring astronomy to children who otherwise wouldnít have the chance to look through a telescope.


What Kids See

Forget green cheese. According to children at a CLASS Star Party last August, the moon is made of rock, ice, or gasoline.

"Itís big!" 5-year-old Christopher Jones hooted as he peered at the moon through one of several telescopes aimed skyward like cannons. "Itís got tattoos!"

Nine-year-old Tyreisha Jones of Dallas thought the moon was going to be orange and yellow, "but it looked like a peach."

"It looks like you could go ice skating on it," said Daryl Edwards, 13.

Children are not the only ones who jostle for a look at the CLASS Star Parties. During the summer, when the scraping of snow-cone ice pulls children away from the telescopes, the grown-ups move in for a look.

"My favorite is the Pleiades," said 31-year-old Graciela Santana of Plano, TX. Also known as the Seven Sisters, this open cluster actually contains hundreds of stars. "They are so beautiful. It was the first thing I saw with binoculars," said Ms. Santana. "My gosh, it was like diamonds."

Nothing Else Out There Like It

Mr. Wagoner said it is not imperative to have high-tech equipment to view the heavens. There is plenty to see, he says, even with binoculars. And many amateur astronomers even build their own telescopes.

"There is nothing like looking at the moon through a telescope that you made," said Manuel Arredondo of Duncanville, TX. Arredondo built his own 4 and 1/2 foot telescope over the course of a year. Its body came from a cardboard tube that had held a concrete pillar, the handles once graced kitchen cabinets, and the sight finder that he uses to home in on celestial objects was once on a BB gun. Mr. Arredondo said that the most compelling thing about stargazing is that it makes you appreciate Earth, "because there is nothing else out there like it."

Upcoming CLASS Events

Visit the C.L.A.S.S. website, www.ClassUSA.org, for information on their upcoming events and activities.

This article first appeared in the Dallas Morning News, August 11, 2003. The revised version printed here was included in the Fall 2003 edition of The American Astronomer, the AAAA Newsletter.

Find out more about the
City Lights Astronomical Society for Students
on the
CLASS Home Page


City Lights Astronomical Society for Students
1409 Sequoia
Plano, TX 75023
Phone: (972) 509-0676

The purpose of the City Lights Astronomical Society for Students (CLASS) is to take astronomy into urban areas and to show young people that they have choices when it comes to interests, that students can be interested in science either as a hobby or as a career, as well as follow traditional pursuits. Our goal is to provide service to the underserved areas of our community. Membership in CLASS is free, and is open to any student regardless of race, religion, national origin, sex, or creed because we celebrate our diversity. Membership in CLASS also includes a free membership in the Astronomical League, and all of its programs and activities.

John Wagoner - President - CLASS

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