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Boise State celebrates fifth anniversary of First Friday Astronomy series

First Friday Astronomy observation, photo Patrick Sweeney

In 2016 associate professor of physics Brian Jackson, with the help of student organizers, established a monthly series in which subject matter experts from across the country would bring their experiences and knowledge of the marvels of space to campus for the benefit of all interested community members.

“The First Friday Astronomy events are able to secure an impressive quality of presenters that really stand out in terms of topics presented, and attract anyone with an interest in modern astronomy,” said Lief Edmondson, a member of the Boise Astronomical Society and First Friday attendee.

These sessions invite participants to view the heavens and to ask questions about everything from time-travel, to planetary discoveries, to NASA missions, and beyond. The recent addition of assistant professor Heidi Wu to the physics department faculty promises an expanded scope of speakers and topics.

Brian Jackson at observatory

“It has been a great pleasure to participate in and contribute to the First Friday Astronomy lectures,” said Wu. “These lectures have brought a wide expertise of astronomy to Boise and strengthened the local science community. Even during the pandemic, our audience has been very supportive. I would like to thank Dr. Jackson for creating such an amazing event series!”

Ciera Partyka-Worley is seeking a physics degree with an astrophysics emphasis and has been helping organize the First Friday events since 2017. For her, the events have not only been an opportunity to meet and collaborate with like-minded people, but to also help others share in the wonder of celestial bodies and the marvels of space.

two people stand in front of presentation screen
TREX’s JA Grier presents at First Friday Astronomy Lecture series. Grier’s presentation was titled “The Stories of Impact Craters: How Scientists Learn to Tell Them”

“My favorite part of these sessions is getting to learn from a wide variety of people with tons of different backgrounds. These events are a great way for me to get the gist of topics I’m not that familiar with such as asteroids, NASA missions to Europa, and Earth-like exoplanets,” said Partyka-Worley. “I’m really glad we can provide an enjoyable way to educate the public about space and the things that are in it, not to mention folks get pretty starstruck— no pun intended—when we show them Jupiter’s moons in our telescopes!”

These events are also enjoyed by members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Boise State. This institute is membership-based with over 2,000 members, age 50 and over, who participate in college-level, noncredit lectures and short courses as well as community and university events.

“The Institute has been a financial supporter of the First Friday Astronomy events for several years, and participation of Osher members is noted in each event,” said Osher Institute director Dana Thorp Patterson.

Upcoming First Friday Astronomy events

Evening Sky Map, Photo Patrick Sweeney

Join the upcoming virtual First Friday Astronomy lectures! Sessions are live-streamed at 7:30 p.m. MT.

Oct. 1Jim Annis of Fermilab will present: “Dark Energy Survey: From Galaxies to Gravitational Wave Events.”

Nov. 5: Johanna Teske of the Carnegie Earth and Planets Lab will present: “The Current and Future Landscape of Small Exoplanet Demographics.”

Dec. 3: Tyler Gordon of the Astronomy Department at the University of Washington will present: “The Search for Exomoons, Missing Companions to the Extrasolar Worlds.”