The planets and extraterrestrial phenomena of outer space don't seem as far away anymore, thanks to the wonders of technology and the speed of the Internet. These days, wanna-be astronomers or those interested in seeing what's out there in the cosmos can easily log on to the Slooh Space Camera or similar online skywatching sites and watch both lunar and solar eclipses, as well as witness asteroids and other cosmic detritus zoom through our corner of the galaxy. But as convenient as such laptop cyber-stargazing can be, it isn't as interesting as attending one of the East Valley Astronomy Club's star parties. After all, all those twinkling stars are best seen in the great outdoors, which harks back to something Plato once stated many moons ago: "Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another." And on a number of occasions each month, the 200-odd astronomy enthusiasts who make up the club, which has been scanning the skies since 1987, gaze into heavens using such heavy-duty telescopes as the Takahashi Epsilon-210 Astrograph at the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert or other rural locations around the East Valley. As they aim their high-caliber optics toward the void, members of the public are invited to squint through the viewfinder at the cosmic bodies populating our own solar system or at far-flung nebulae. If only they'd let us bring out our boombox and blast Holst's The Planets during such sky-watching sessions.