USU Observatory holds school year’s first public astronomy night for students, Cache community
Published: Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 00:10
Students and Cache Valley locals hiked to the top of the Science Engineering Research building Friday for a night of gazing at the stars at the USU Observatory.
The observatory is opened to the public once a month during the fall months so individuals can behold the majesty of the universe, according to James Coburn, teaching supervisor of the physics department and organizer of the event. The observatory night is free to anyone on astronomy nights.
“We have six telescopes set up outside and one inside,” Coburn said.
Despite the dark, chilly night, the observatory was filled with fascinated children and adults. A student volunteer was waiting at each of the telescopes to answer questions anyone might have. Jacob Dansie, one of the volunteers and a composite science teaching major, brought his own telescope so observers could move it around to different points in the sky and look at whatever they could find. He expressed his joy in letting people have a hands-on experience.
“I love looking up at the stars and seeing how much is out there,” Dansie said. “There’s still just so much that we can’t see. It’s fun.”
Dansie pointed out the constellations of Orpheus, his lyre —a stringed instrument — and the eagle who, according to legend, brought the instrument up to the sky after he died. Dansie also pointed the telescope to a ring nebula, describing it as looking like “the ghost of a small Cheerio.”
Many attendees said they really enjoyed having the opportunity to move the telescope around themselves and find their own wonders in the sky.
But the largest of the telescopes was pointed at the Andromeda galaxy, the closest galaxy to our Milky Way, made up of 1 trillion stars.
Byron Ray, a USU student and member of the Cache Valley Astronomical Society, said he came to the event to take advantage of one of the few nights when the observatory is open to more than just the astronomy students. His organization is dedicated to gazing at the stars and Ray said he looks forward to establishing an on-campus branch.
“We’ve had to do some reorganizing, but we just held elections for officers, and we should be holding monthly meetings in the physics building on campus,” Ray said.
Ray said it’s usually too cold for much outside stargazing during the winter months, but once spring comes, the club takes trips to Beaver Mountain Ski Resort and other locations to get away from all the the light of the city and allow the members a chance to look up at the clear night sky through their telescopes.
The next scheduled astronomy night will be held from 7:30-9:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 8. Any interested students are welcome to attend, and any changes or cancellations will be posted on the USU events calendar webpage.