Oct 042004
 
Authors: Karissa Ciarlelli

Every Tuesday evening CSU students have an excuse to get

starry-eyed.

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

said.

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

the observatory.

“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

said.

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

Sciences Building.”

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

Altair.

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

said.

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