Lessons in chance found in Astronomy Club


Randall Benton

Astronomy Club president Marie Yokers talks astronomy and COVID-19.

Amanda Kasl, Opinions Editor

Astronomy Club is the only club at San Diego Mesa College that allows you to explore all that lies beyond the planet on which we live. Between the study, exploration and discovery of countless planets, stars, galaxies, comets, asteroids, and the infinite concept of space itself, it’s easy to see why astronomy is such a uniquely sought-after field of study. Marie Yokers, a student majoring in astrophysics, is the Astronomy Club’s current president. Upon attending the virtual presentation given by Jonny Kim, “An Evening with an Astronaut”  on April 29, I noticed the event was organized by the San Diego Mesa Astronomy Club and reached out to its president. 

Astronomy Club was originally founded in the fall semester of 2018 by Alexander Beltzer-Sweeney as founding president,  with Ana Parra, Alex Hewett and Danny Rosales fulfilling the remaining crucial positions within the club.

The idea of a club based in science may sound off-putting to some, but Yokers extended this message to those unsure, “I want to mimic what Dr. Kim had said, which was, ‘Space is for everyone. It doesn’t belong to anyone.’ The demographic absolutely reflects this sentiment. People come in from all walks of life, all ages, and all different experiences.” 

Space is vast, unknown, abstract, daunting and even confusing to some, but why is it important? Astronomy may not have daily applications like mathematics or English, but rather encompasses a broader realm of both academics and interest. 

Yokers described the importance of this complex subject stating, “Astronomy has played such a deep role in the development of the human race with agriculture, travel, culture, religion, etc.” This begs the question, if astronomy is a more complex, all-encompassing subject, then how is it any less important than other subjects deemed essential? It isn’t any less important. Astronomy is a field of study that observes all that lies outside of our atmosphere, and utilizes the knowledge and practices of physics, biology, geology and mathematics to continually broaden our understanding of the universe. These key traits, the nagging acknowledgement that there are many things we don’t have answers for and the fascination with the possibility of life found outside of the world we know make astronomy a study, field, and practice all its own.

According to American Astronomical Society, astronomy is a rather small field in terms of career, which incidentally leads to high levels of competition for open positions. 

If you browse classes online, Astronomy is a class offered at Mesa, so how is Astronomy club different from the class? First, it’s a club, and beyond that, Astronomy Club has its own constitution which includes the following two goals, “To promote interest in astronomy and related space sciences on the San Diego Mesa College campus. Provide opportunities for members to learn more about astronomy & related space sciences through club outings, lectures, work-based learning opportunities, and internships.”

Astronomy Club operates through a balance of volunteering, education and discussions. Due to COVID-19 shifts have been made. If you find yourself wondering what types of things happen in Astronomy Club, Yokers identified a few including  film discussions, attending talks such as the one held at the Fleet Science Center earlier this year, attending the Astronomy Association’s Star Parties which allows amateur astronomers to observe, practice and congregate in a fun learning environment, and various other activities. In the words of Yokers, “Basically, if it’s space-related, we try to jump in to learn and have fun!”

After taking a two-year hiatus break from school to work, Yokers returned in 2018 to revisit her interest in astrophysics and took Astronomy 101 at Mesa. About her choice to enroll in the class, “It was the first class that I actually had a passion to do well in, and it was the first class that I really connected with the professor (Dr. Stojimirovic). I confided in Dr. Stojimirovic about wanting to pursue astrophysics as a career and she really helped push me in the correct direction.” 

It was at this point that Yokers found a role in Astronomy Club as treasurer and grew with it. Yokers went on to say, “If I did not take that chance- I would not have met the great network of people that I have so much to credit to today.”

Busy class or work schedules, the idea exploring personal interests, and the pressure to pursue the right education and career path can get overwhelming. Finding encouragement or inspiration from your family, a club, a friend or professor can give you the extra boost you may have needed. 

At the moment, COVID-19 has taken a toll on classes, jobs, student clubs, businesses, and leisurely activities alike, yet strides are being made to ensure Astronomy Club’s continuance. Don’t settle for locking yourself in your room with your now dust-coated textbooks, Yokers encouraged, “My motto for the club post-virus has been ‘keep moving forward’. ‘Would I step away from my physics homework for this event?’ If it’s a yes, then the event is a go.”

At this time, Astronomy Club consists mainly of movie nights, game nights and discussion, with the occasional lecture found easily online. Among the present changes, Yokers mentioned the voting of new officers is hopefully taking place within the next two weeks, inviting anyone interested to reach out to the club email, astroclubmesa@gmail.com.

Astronomy Club meetings happen every Wednesday from 5:30 – 7 p.m.,  through Zoom for the time being. Once students are able to return to campus, the club meetings will be at the STEM Center.

With many student clubs derailed by COVID-19, and social distancing leading to feelings of loneliness and even lack of direction or drive, Astronomy Club will take you to the cosmos.