Stargazing from Camp Casey

Stargazing from Camp Casey

Students have the opportunity to not just view the night sky through the telescope, but also to set up and align the telescope.

As children we’ve all looked up to the night sky and been overwhelmed when it’s clear enough to see the Milky Way. Some of us have even gone a step further. Going beyond being able to pick out the Big and Little Dipper, we learned about some of the constellations. Dr. Douglas Downing, an associate professor of economics in the School of Business, Government, and Economics at SPU, has taken that childhood experience to an all new level. He teaches an Astronomy class at SPU because it’s fun. Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting him agrees he is passionate about astronomy!

As an instructor, he provides his students the opportunity to travel to Camp Casey for some hands-on viewing of the moon, nebulae, and constellations. Why Camp Casey? Most groups that Camp Casey hosts seek out the quiet solitude. Professor Downing and his students find the spot perfect for night sky viewing, far away from the city lights and other light pollution.

While spring is the best time to view Saturn and its rings, it’s always a great time to view the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon or Jupiter and three of its four moons. A 25” Obsession telescope is housed year-round at Camp Casey, so it’s always ready for Professor Downing and other SPU faculty to roll out and use while they visit.   This telescope contains a Newtonian reflector and a Dobsonian mount. It combines great optics for viewing and portability. The main eyepiece is a Televue Panoptic 35 mm, providing a magnification of 3175/35 = 90.7 power.

Students have the opportunity to not just view the night sky through the telescope, but also to set up and align the telescope. Can you imagine how different the experience is between reviewing images on a laptop to looking directly through this powerful telescope?

The Camp Casey staff make a point to let guests know if Dr. Downing is planning to pull out the telescope while they are here.  He is always open to stage an impromptu stargazing opportunity for anyone willing to look and learn. The telescope is one of several outdoor education opportunities available at the Camp Casey Conference Center. If you are looking for an outdoor education venue for your class or group, please contact us and we will gladly work with you to set up an experience you will not soon forget.

Some of the student’s images can be seen at Professor Downing’s page:   http://myhome.spu.edu/ddowning/PHY1135/casey_observations.html