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Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Bill Cowles, of Salt Lake City, looks at the sun through his telescope, fitted with a hydrogen-alpha filter to render the star in higher detail, at a Salt Lake Astronomical Society sun party in Murray at Winchester Park on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017.

MURRAY — Who knew daytime stargazing could be so much fun?

While most people may think that stars shine at night, a group of astronomy enthusiasts spent part of their Saturday morning peering directly at the brightest, most powerful star in the solar system and learning about the universe.

The Salt Lake Astronomical Society hosted a sun party at Winchester Park in Murray along the Jordan River Parkway. Using high-powered telescopes equipped with special filters and lenses that prevent sight damage, local would-be astronomy buffs observed the sun from various angles — getting an up-close view of one of the most dynamic celestial bodies in the Milky Way galaxy.

"Some of the (telescopes) let you see the flares that shoot off the surface of the sun," explained Salt Lake Astronomical Society board member Nate Goodman. "Some of them let you see sunspots — which are storms in the gas on the sun."

He noted that the sun is the most influential star in the universe and has an enormous effect on everything that transpires on Earth.

"We, as a race on this planet, have a huge connection to the universe itself, and everything that goes on in all the galaxies and stars," he added. "When you come (and observe the stars), you will understand your connection to the universe and whoever might have created everything."

With a half-dozen telescopes set up near the south entrance to the park, adults and children took turns looking through the sights. For some, it was a magical experience and helped them view the sun and astronomy in a way they hadn't understood before.

"I really do like astronomy," said Kaleb Reed, 16, a junior at Paradigm High School in South Jordan. "I really enjoy looking for things I don't understand and seeing what I can learn from that. The universe is so much bigger than I actually think it is."

Kaleb and his father, Thom Reed, visited the daytime sun party in an effort to gain new insights into the realms of science and the universe. They also plan to check out an evening event as well one day, the elder Reed said.

"(We learned) that the sunspot we saw (thought the telescope) was three or four times bigger than our Earth," Kaleb explained. "It really puts into perspective how large our world is."

At 44 years old, Thom Reed said he was fascinated by what he learned during his first-ever daylight astronomy experience.

"I've never looked through a telescope at the sun before," Reed said. "It was amazing to see what it looked like from here. It looks so far away, but this brings it so much closer to our world."

He said one of the biggest takeaways was "how small we are compared to what's going on around us."

Goodman noted the diameter of the sun was approximately 109 times that of Earth. It was something that was not lost on Salt Lake City resident Tony Lau, 37.

His curiosity about astronomy was sparked following the solar eclipse in August. He said now he's interested in learning even more about what goes on in the galaxy.

"The sky is so big and there are so many different things to see out there," he said. "It really just fascinates me. It's enjoying nature in a different way."

He said learning about astronomy has given him a new appreciation for the world around him and what lies beyond Earth's atmosphere.

"There are possibilities for so many things out there," Lau said. "There are other planets, there's the moon and space exploration. It really broadens your horizons about possibilities there are in life and in the universe."