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CU Boulder students head to Delta for science outreach and star party

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Photo submitted CU Boulder science students lead star and space programs in many Colorado communities.

High school students in Delta will build their own solar system, look for sunspots and flares on the sun using a solar telescope and more, thanks to an outreach program offered through the University of Colorado Boulder.

The CU-STARs -- undergraduate and graduate astronomy students -- head to Delta High School Nov. 3 and 4 to lead hands-on science classes and informal demonstrations.

In addition, the public is invited to a free evening "star party" in the softball field behind the high school, 1400 Pioneer Road on Nov. 3 starting at 7 p.m., where telescopes will be set up to view planets and stars.

"Visiting schools all around Colorado lets us bring our enthusiasm for science and space to many schools across the state, and especially to those which may have limited opportunities for free science enrichment programs. And it's especially fun for us to visit rural communities, where we can enjoy the stars in their dark skies," said Erica Ellingson, CU Boulder associate professor of astrophysical and planetary sciences who heads the program.

The program recruits undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds to scientific careers, organizes outreach to middle and high schools around Colorado, and offers community-building events. Since 2011, the CU Boulder students have visited schools in Keenesburg, Carbondale, Trinidad, Montrose, Delta, Cañon City, Denver and more.

"Teaching through CU-STARs is a wonderful experience because we all get to watch the moment when a student develops a love of science like we all did," said Sam Strabala, a senior studying astronomy and physics.

Under Ellingson's direction, the CU Boulder students have developed many hands-on activities such as building a solar system out of Legos that orbits a lightbulb "sun." This allows middle and high schoolers to watch for eclipses, a technique also used by astronomers to discover planets around other stars.

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