Every Tuesday evening CSU students have an excuse to get
Roger Culver, a professor of astronomy and physics, opens the
campus observatory doors from 8 to 9 p.m. every Tuesday.
Usually, a crowd of 15 to 20 people gather to see the stars.
Culver encourages students to come to be educated and entertained,
free of charge. It is great for an inexpensive date, Culver
Every Tuesday evening, Culver will choose about five heavenly
objects to show the guests. The objects he shows vary depending on
the brightness of the moon, which can diminish the visibility of
other bodies and the cloudiness of the evening sky.
Culver has been opening the observatory for various groups for
the past 30 years. However, ten years ago, he decided to make it a
weekly program, which would meet only one day per week.
Sometimes if the moon is near and bright, Culver will show close
views of the moon and its craters.
The season also determines what Culver is able to find in the
night’s sky. For instance, right now the “naked eye” planets
(meaning they can be seen by the naked eye) are only visible in the
morning sky, Culver said.
However, during the spring semester, students will be able to
see planets such as Saturn, Jupiter and Venus.
Emily Pearson, a freshman open-option major, is enrolled in an
environmental science class, where she will attend a field trip to
“In my science class we’ll get to use the telescope. I was
pretty excited to hear we would get to see Mars and Saturn,” she
While Culver typically only stays about an hour with guests at
the observatory, he made a special exception last summer when Mars
was closer to earth than it had been for 60,000 years. Culver
stayed until after 1 a.m. while over 2,000 people came to the
observatory in three nights.
“It was our most impressive turnout ever,” Culver said. “The
line went from (the observatory) all the way to the Natural
For the first time in 60,000 years Mars was only about 35.5
million miles away from earth when it is usually 64 million miles
away, Culver said.
The giant telescope weighs nearly a ton, but is easily
maneuverable. Culver points the telescope in the general direction
of the heavenly body he wants to observe and adjusts the setting
circles to the correct latitude and longitude to zoom in on a
specific star or object.
Through the telescope, students are able to observe stars that
appear in various colors, such as blue, gold and green. The color
differences are due to different temperatures, Culver said.
The hotter stars, such as Altair, appear bluish-white as it has
a higher light frequency. Another star, Antares, called the “rival
of Mars” appears reddish-orange and it is five times cooler than
The 16-foot telescope uses a Cassegrain System, which consists
of two large mirrors; the primary mirror, which is concave, and the
secondary mirror, which is convex, allow for a large magnification
of the image, Culver said. The image occurs behind the primary
mirror as it allows light to pass through, according to R.F. Royce
Precision Optical Web site.
The telescope is located on campus and is designed for use by
labs and the general public.
“It’s basically a student instrument,” Culver said.
Culver, who has been interested in astronomy since he was a
child, said he feels he was destined to become an astronomer.
“I am privileged to do what I love and make a living at it,” he