Out of this world: Planetary Society looks to the stars

The Planetary Society, the first ever community college outreach group of the Planetary Society has landed at Citrus College.

“I think it’s a really important group,” said David Kary, Ph.D., professor of astronomy. “It is one of the few organizations that actually advocates for science in terms of outreach to the public and direct lobbying to Congress for funding to pay for things like exploration.”

Nestor Aquino, 20, an astrophysics major and club founder, volunteers for The Planetary Society at their Headquarters in Pasadena, where the idea to start the club came from.

“After checking out their website I saw that there were outreach chapters at other colleges,” Aquino said. “So I thought ‘I‘ll just start one here as well.’”

Aquino said that he got in touch with Geovanni Somoza, the Los Angeles outreach coordinator.

Somoza gave him the supplies he needed for Club Rush.

“After Kary agreed to be the adviser, everything just fell into place,” Aquino said.

Kary is in the process of becoming an official outreach coordinator for the Planetary Society to fulfill his duties as club adviser.

Once Kary is approved as an Outreach Coordinator, the club will become an official college campus outreach group.

“I look forward to working with [Aquino] to bring the astronomy club at Citrus on as an official TPS  outreach group,” said Kate Howells, volunteer network manager for the Planetary Society.

The Citrus outreach group is expected to host and promote various space-related events on campus.

The Planetary Society is an American organization that was founded by Carl Sagan, American astronomer, Bruce Murray, American planetary scientist and Louis Friedman, American astronautics engineer, as a way to show policy makers around the world that the general public is interested in space exploration and the question of whether or not extraterrestrial life exists.

“We are dads, moms, grandparents, teachers, kids, scientists, engineers and space geeks. We are those who reach out into the universe to seek answers to those deep questions: Where did we come from? And are we alone?” said Bill Nye, “The Science Guy,”CEO, on the society’s official website.

Aquino said that Citrus College once had a planetarium about 15 years ago.

“It’s a bummer that [the planetarium] went away but that’s why I started the club, to get people more excited again.”

“There is so much that we don’t know about space and the little knowledge we do have about it, not many people are interested in learning about it,” said Jack Stortroen, 20, chemical engineering major and founding member.

Aquino said that Citrus used to have a Space Owls club but it got shut down.

“We wanted to restart Space Owls, but we were afraid it would get canceled again, so when Nestor found the Planetary Society, we were all for it,” Stortroen said. “We thought that having a well-known organization backing us up would make things easier.”

Aquino said that club members are already planning to participate in the Planetary Society’s 35th anniversary event on Oct. 23 and Oct. 24, in Pasadena where Bill Nye will cut the ribbon to the new Headquarters facility. Andrew Weir, author of “The Martian”, will also be speaking.

The Citrus College chapter of the Planetary Society meets most Fridays at 11 a.m., usually in MA 227.

Interested students can also visit the club’s Citrus College Planetary Society page on Facebook.