Naperville Astronomical Association celebrates its 50th anniversary

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Naperville Astronomical Association celebrates milestone

“We are delighted on behalf of the city council to have you here in celebrating 50 years of success and science and teaching and relationships that you’ve built over those years,” said Mayor Scott Wehrli. 

The Naperville Astronomical Association celebrated its 50th anniversary at the Astronomy Education Center Saturday evening, joined by members and public officials to mark the milestone. The evening’s event included speeches from past and present members, awards for their community contributions, and stargazing through telescopes. 

The group now boasts over 200 members and has hosted hundreds of stargazing events at the Astronomy Education Center. Yet, it all began with a couple of high schoolers’ fascination for looking up at the stars. 

How the group got started

“We started out as a high school astronomy club at Naperville Central High School, a few miles off that direction. It just happened that it came together, that there were several of us who were, uh, kind of obsessed with the idea of doing stargazing, and we came up with the wonderful plan of building our observatory,” said Naperville Astronomical Association Co-founder Drew Carhart. 

Carhart co-founded the club with colleague and astronomer Lawrence Jahn, as they both had an affinity for stargazing since they were young. 

“We were (a) fairly brainy bunch and almost something like out of the Big Bang Theory or something, but maybe not quite as nerdy, just like half nerdy or something,” said Naperville Astronomical Association Co-Founder Lawrence Jahn.  

Their love for astronomy has been shared through the years with fellow astronomy enthusiasts across the Naperville community.

“It’s just fun. It’s a lot of fun. And part of it is getting to know other people. And part of it is just having the fun of going out and hunting something up or seeing a really spectacular thing like a new comet or a total eclipse of the sun,” said Jahn.

Plans for the organization moving forward

The Naperville Astronomical Association holds multiple monthly outreach events to promote astronomy. They aim to extend its presence for another half century by injecting new life into the organization with its younger members.

“My son, for example, six years old, just kind of getting him exposed to it, you know, whether it helps him, you know, be more interested in the stars and or in other sciences, that helps,” said Naperville Astronomical Association member Tom Krush.

Those with an interest in astronomy are encouraged by the group to come to an event. As you never know what the stars have to offer. 

“Stargazing you can do on your own just fine out in your own yard. You can go out to a park or the wilderness or wherever and look up in the sky. But it’s a different thing to share with other people that a lot of people find a lot of additional pleasure in that,” said Carhart. 

The Naperville Astronomical Association will also hold two stargazing events before the end of August. Their “Free Viewing Through Our Telescopes” event will be on August 24 at the Naperville Riverwalk beginning at 11 pm. Their second public stargazing event will be on August 26 from 7:30 pm to 10 pm. at the Astronomy Education Center. Both events are free of charge.

Photo Courtesy: Naperville Astronomical Association

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