Colgate Constellations Brings Community Together for Stargazing


On a cold Saturday night in October, Colgate Activities Board (CAB) held a Constellation event at the Observatory. CAB managed the social distancing guidelines for their event with multiple registration locations and limited spots at each location.

During the presentation, sophomore and presenter Anna Cook pointed out numerous celestial objects in the night sky, including the Andromeda galaxy and the Summer Triangle. Cook introduced attendees to the idea of circumpolar stars, which are stars that never set below the horizon. 

Cook also gave participants a tour of the prominent constellations currently visible and pointed out how Jupiter, Saturn and Mars were visible that night. Accompanying her presentation, Cook told engaging stories about the origins of the names of many objects and the Greek myths that inspired them, such as the stories of Perseus, Andromeda and Pegasus. For students that had been to VisLab presentations before, it was very different to be outside and without the fancy technology of the lab to present the night sky. In a way, it seemed more personal. 

Sitting on the cold ground outside, attendees listened to the “space sounds” included in the presentation, but could also hear students enjoying bonfires on the Quad, which made the event feel more connected to the community. Sitting on the hill, looking at the stars that set over us every night made Colgate seem a little more normal. 

Cook said working the VisLab has changed with COVID-19 restrictions this semester. 

“We are not allowed in [the VisLab], so we have had to get ‘workspace licenses’ in order to learn new software to work on the VisLab from remote locations. We are also working on creating events or activities to keep the VisLab accessible, such as a mini-series of explaining things in two minutes and other opportunities for virtual outreach to continue the work we did last year,” Cook said. 

After the presentation, CAB representative and sophomore Meg D’Souza explained how planning events have changed in the age of COVID-19 and how restrictions have affected participation. 

“With the new [COVID-19] procedures, we have more policies in place, so we have to be more conscious of planning everything far in advance and go through a lot more routes for approval. We’re also working hard to find new creative ways to do things online, and in regards to making CAB events special, a lot of the draw of CAB events is that people can eat food and take things back to their dorms so they have a little takeaway, so we were trying to figure out how to best give people things that they can take with them and still have that CAB experience,” D’Souza shared.

So far this semester, CAB has worked to give attendees goody bags before an online event. In terms of event participation, D’Souza shared her perspective on some unforeseen difficulties. 

“It has changed a lot due to having to pre-register for events, and group space is limited. Online events are compounded with people experiencing ‘Zoom fatigue’ and therefore they do not want to spend more time on their screens,” D’Souza added.

Despite restrictions, CAB is working hard on Fall Fest this year and there will be something for everyone to enjoy.