FARMINGTON -- One of the facts learned by students attending Davis School District's summer astronomy camp was how insignificant they are in the universe.
"Right now, as we speak, over 99 percent of everything in the solar system is in the sun," said Greg Domgaard, Farmington Junior High science teacher. "That means all of you -- the class, the asteroids, the moons are like little bread crumbs compared to the sun. To me that's amazing."
Being one of the smallest objects in the cosmos was fascinating to other students attending the camp, which began Tuesday and continues through Friday.
"Astronomy is probably the best science," said 13-year-old Shelbie Drake. "We know a lot of things right now, but that's just in our universe. There are more universes out there we can't see yet and technology is getting better and better. Soon we will be able to see more. There are other worlds we can't see. I am a strong believer there is other life out there."
This is the second year the district has brought the universe a little closer to junior high school students interested in celestial objects. During the week-long camp, attendees will learn about constellations, planets and deep sky objects with lectures and many hands-on activities, including making rockets, model planets and a visit to the Brigham Young University planetarium.
"I think the most fun part we have done so far is we heated up some elements and we got to look at their spectrum," said 14-year-old Joseph Gillespie. "We saw what kinds of light came from it, so you could recognize what kinds of elements were in the stars."
Amber Nuttall, 13, said her sixth-grade teacher got her interested in astronomy and now she considers it a hobby.
"I knew I would be able to learn more about astronomy and meet a group of people who wanted to be here as well," she said. "I would be able to learn from them and just have a great experience."
Most of the students already knew their way around the stars. The lectures in the classroom were informal with the students bringing up subjects such as dwarf planets and globular star clusters.
"They are here because they want to be, so that makes all the difference," said Wayne Sumner, Northridge High School science teacher. "What's nice is I don't have to give them a grade. They are here for the fun of it."
In addition to junior high students, several teachers from the district attended the class.
"I am double dipping," said Lindy Worden, Kaysville Junior High science teacher. "Not only am I learning stuff, but I can take the paper work to teach my kids. I also like to learn hands-on stuff I can get the kids to do."
The educators involved hope that the passion for astronomy will spark a love of other sciences as well.
"Astronomy is kind of the gateway drug for the sciences," Domgaard said. "If they get interested in astronomy, they get interested in math, physics, chemistry and others. We just try to get them interested early so they will take more science classes. That is our main goal."
Domgaard organizes the camp with fellow teachers and amateur astronomers Sumner and Stan Martin, also a science teacher at Farmington Junior High. All three said they enjoy sharing their passion with the students.
"I think it touches their imaginations," Sumner said. "It boggles their minds. I feel the same way. It boggles my mind and I love to share those feelings of amazement and astonishment with the kids."
The students will take away more than knowledge from the camp. With the help of a donation from Hill Air Force Base all attendees will assemble their own telescope and will get to keep it.
"When you are looking at the sky and there is nothing there, you can then look through the telescope at one of those deep sky objects for the first time and there is the most amazing thing you have seen," Domgaard said. "It's almost like a borderline spiritual experience. It's amazing to see the reaction people have."
The students will get the chance to use their telescopes and experience the far reaches of space at a star party Saturday night on Antelope Island with the Ogden Astronomical Society.
"I am really excited about the telescopes and that I will be able to look at the stars really closely," said Nuttall. "It's pretty exciting, all of it."
Sumner, who bought his first telescope with his paper route money and has since built more than 300 telescopes, hopes the students will get a lot of use out of their first telescopes.
"I hope they will spend evenings with their parents and later with their own children looking at the night sky and appreciate the wonder of what they are looking at," Sumner said.