The Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit set up three of their high-powered telescopes along Manzanita Beach last night from 7 to 10:30 p.m. for UCSB Astronomy Night, magnifying stellar phenomena with up to 1,000 times the strength of the human eye.

Dozens of amateur astronomers targeted notable galactic features, including dark stars, globular clusters and the Andromeda Galaxy. According to the SBAU website, the organization’s goal is to inform the public about the various astronomy-related events and activities that occur in and around Santa Barbara County.

The SBAU sent three representatives to instruct students on how to use the telescopes in order to cultivate their interest in the field of astronomy. According to one of the representatives and Outreach Coordinator Chuck McPartlin, students were shown a 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite discovered in 1576 along with other astronomical artifacts. McPartlin, who recently received the Astronomical Society of the Pacific’s Amateur Outreach Award, said Astronomy Night and similar events coordinated by the SBAU are vital to enlightening local residents about the field of study.

“We just enjoy bringing astronomy to the public, increasing knowledge of science in the area [and] encouraging folks to look at the sky once in a while,” McPartlin said. “The more people that know about astronomy the more people turn their lights off.”

McPartlin said that while astronomy recently garnered considerable excitement and media attention when the Curiosity rover landed on Mars’ surface in August, the economic recession has led the U.S. government to stop funding NASA and has decreased opportunities for first-hand research.

“[It is] unfortunate because NASA eats such a small portion of the budget when you look at it,” McPartlin said. “But that is life.”

According to fourth-year biology major Alexander Phillips, the SBAU participates in multiple outreach events for the community.

“I just really wanted to bring this group out,” Phillips said. “I’ve met them before and they have this huge ensemble of awesome volunteers who set up telescopes for the public. I really wanted to bring them here to Santa Barbara where students could look at the stars, see constellations and experience what they have to show us.”

Third-year global studies and psychology double major Rahel Zeleke said the event was a unique opportunity to see a part of nature that is normally difficult to observe, especially for people coming from large cities. According to Zeleke, Astronomy Night allowed people to appreciate the expanse of the universe from a singular perspective on Earth.

“It’s cool to take the time out of your night and experience it for yourself,” Zeleke said. “It’s a really calming type of environment. … We are nothing on this world, but we are a part of it, and I think that is really cool.”