With lectures covering topics from the overtone series to airplane crashes, our day was already off to a unique start. After hearing about Dr. Dubson’s and Prof. Alexander’s journeys in studying astronomy, dinner serving up fortune-telling, tuna, and French vanilla ice cream only signaled how memorable the night would be.
But first, we needed to take care of our orbital determination (OD) code. Although we had written various pieces of the code previously, our assignment now involved putting everything together in a working manner, which introduced many more possibilities for error than I had anticipated. Debugging the code was like pulling weeds: with every step there was some issue you needed to take care of, and every time you thought you were finished, you found more. But after several intense periods of collaboration, confusion, and dreaded remeasurements in AstroImageJ, the correct values were finally printed. Kenna became one with photometry, and we celebrated with rounds of high fives and cheering. We were overcome by a rush of accomplishment and satisfaction.
After taking a 30-minute break to vibe to music and spin around on chairs, my group headed up to the observatory deck. As soon as we stepped through the door, I was immersed in the peaceful atmosphere — the dark sky full of shimmering stars, the soft red glowing lights, the crisp still air, the gentle hum of machines. This was the first time that we were going to observe objects other than our asteroid, which probably contributed to making this night feel so special. I don’t know if it was the stargazing, the filming of Ethan and Kenna’s movie, or the fast-approaching end of the program, but something that night made me think more about our time here — about how much we have learned, about all the strong friendships we made, about how even when we part ways, we will still be able to carry every memory home with us.
The peaceful rooftop atmosphere
Although we dread addressing how soon the program will end, it inevitably comes up in a conversation every now and then. I’ve found that one of the best ways to recover from the blues of this topic is hanging out with others after we’ve likely been kicked out of the computer lab. Whether it’s playing games with the whole group, painting nails, or late-night snacking on Bobo’s oat bars, we all try to make the most of our time together away from work. Taking these breaks brings us closer together because we all get to realize how similar we are beyond the classroom (especially as we commiserate over how late we’re choosing to sleep).
Ameera’s painted nails one late night in the study room
These moments that we share together have truly shaped this program into a one-of-a-kind experience. So even though saying our goodbyes will undoubtedly have a bittersweet taste, we can consider it a milestone for how much we’ve accomplished, grown, and learned over the previous four weeks.
My name is Calista, and I’m a rising senior in Scottsdale, Arizona. I love physics and math and enjoy playing the piano and ukulele in my free time. My experience at SSP has been truly remarkable so far, and I can’t wait for all the new memories we’ll make in the coming days.