Check it Off the Bucket List

For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with the night sky. Whenever there is any special celestial event, I am always trying to convince my family to take me to a dark field where I can look up at the stars. However, coming from an NYC suburb, there is never anywhere that gets truly dark. That’s why I was thrilled when last night’s field trip was announced. We would go to Nederland, a dark sky site, and stargaze for a few hours. My excitement only grew when I heard that on a clear night, we would be able to see the Milky Way, something I had wanted to witness for a very long time.

Yesterday, the day finally arrived. We got on a bus, drove to the lake where we would have our picnic dinner before stargazing, and saw a completely overcast sky. We were disappointed, but hoped that the rapidly changing Colorado weather would pull through for us in the few hours we had before it got dark. We had a great time eating, hiking, and exploring the beautiful nature the lake had to offer. However, as the evening progressed and clouds still filled the sky, some of us decided to take matters into our own hands.

Cute little ducklings while hiking at the lake!

Gabriella, Maggie, and I developed a scientifically proven method of moving the clouds…a clear sky dance! We choreographed a deeply symbolic dance (which included spinning in circles for “good vibes” and miming pushing clouds away), and guess what? It worked! In a few short minutes, the clouds dissipated as the sun began to set.

An extremely effective clear sky dance

As I stared up at the quickly darkening sky, the beauty of the universe became clear. Thousands of stars filled my vision, more than I have ever seen at once. As I continued looking, I saw not only stars but two meteors, seventeen satellites, and most excitingly, the Milky Way. After years of waiting, I could finally check it off my bucket list!

The Milky Way!

As I lay in the dirt and looked up at the stars, I considered how lucky I was to see such beauty while surrounded by incredible people who appreciated the sight as much as I did. It was such a fantastic experience that only added to the list of experiences I have gained as a result of SSP.

I had some expectations coming into the program that have already been met! Making observations through a really cool telescope, gaining independence while living away from home, making some amazing friends, and learning a ton of new information in lectures!

However, even more special to me are the experiences I had that I did not expect. Getting to see the Milky Way was one of them, but there have been countless others! Extremely random, collaborative drawings on the computer lab wipe board and debates about the best science fiction movies and books are always entertaining. Eating late night snacks with the Terrific Trio and celebrating small victories like the first coding assignment we completed without a TA’s help make the assignments much more fun. Even more fun are our “Just Dance” parties we have when we submit one! 

When the Terrific Trio is in the “Help Queue” just to get checked off, and not because we’ve been stuck on the coding problem for four hours!

Before coming to SSP, I could have never imagined just how welcoming, collaborative, and fun this community would be! As I look forward to the rest of SSP, I can’t wait to discover what new experiences I will be able to enjoy!


Hi! My name is Ariella and I’m from Purchase, New York. I enjoy ballet, musical theater, playing the flute, and learning about human spaceflight. Here at SSP, I can often be found at late-night, post-PSet dance parties or working in the computer lab.