Clouds may have obscured the stars at Keystone College’s observatory Saturday night, but they didn’t obscure Ryan Mulligan’s enthusiasm for space.
Accompanied by her dad and brother, the 9-year-old from Clarks Summit caught a quick glimpse of the moon through a break in the clouds as she peered through the 12-foot-long towering white Clark refractor telescope at the college’s Thomas G. Cupillari ’60 Observatory.
The Lackawanna Astronomical Society hosted its annual Astronomy Day, giving a group of kids and their parents a chance to check out their telescopes.
A third grader at Clarks Summit Elementary, Ryan recently joined her school’s astronomy club.
“I never knew that there were sunspots or solar flares on the sun,” she said, laughing as she added, “I feel like I should’ve known that.”
Her favorite part of Astronomy Day was looking through the Clark refractor, she said.
“I only saw the moon through the big one (telescope) for like a split second, but I was here last time and saw all the planets,” Ryan said, explaining she hadn’t taken astronomy, so she couldn’t identify them at the time.
Her dad, Bill Mulligan, passed down an affinity for space that he learned from his own grandfather, William Mulligan Sr. His grandfather enjoyed science and astronomy, and Mulligan recalls sitting mesmerized for hours as a child while he listened to his grandfather’s stories. Nowadays, he’s been taking Ryan and her brother, Billy, 11, to the observatory for about two years.
“It’s fun when she comes home from places like this or the astronomy group that she’s in — just being able to talk to her about these things is pretty neat, and it’s also pretty neat when she teaches me something,” he said with a chuckle. “You’re like, ‘OK, I guess I don’t know as much as I thought.’ ”
Jo-Ann Pluciennik Kamichitis, the director of the Lackawanna Astronomical Society and a member since 1971, recalled watching excited kids at the observatory grow up over the years, eventually returning with their own kids.
Kids are also some of the best at manipulating telescopes and finding planets, she said.
“Adults are more hesitant,” Kamichitis said. “Kids are more bold.”