Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Ashcroft Observatory, Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah

 We recently had the opportunity to visit Ashcroft Observatory, run by Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah. We had checked their Facebook page and saw that they opened at 9:45 pm. The Google map directions were a little off, so we toured the neighborhood a bit, but fortunately found it in the end.

From the SUU Farm, head south on Westview Drive. There's a big turn in the road, with a steep hill going south blocked off with big boulders. Go around the boulders and up the road to the gate.

While we were waiting for the gate open, we used our binoculars to look at Jupiter and its Galilean moons (the four moons found by Galileo hundreds of years ago). We also checked out the moon, about half full. Surprisingly, even with it so bright, I was still able to capture a little Milky Way over the observatory (see photo above).

Our big group (about 25) was split into two, and we joined the first group into the observatory, which sits about 12. Our guide then showed us some wonders of the night sky with the 14-inch Celestron telescope. I loved the rotating roof! We saw Jupiter, Saturn, the ring nebula, and a globular star cluster. He said that on nights with fewer people, they see more objects. I didn't mention to him that at Saturday night's astronomy program at Great Basin National Park, 200 people showed up and the lines at the telescope were really long!

After we saw those objects, we traded with the other group and went outside. We got a close-up look of craters on the moon and then also a constellation tour. Despite a few clouds, it was a good night to be outside.

The Ashcroft Observatory is not a research observatory. Instead, SUU partners with the Great Basin Observatory in Great Basin National Park. You can see some really amazing photos on their website. They also publish quarterly newsletters, After Dark.

If you have a chance to visit the Ashcroft Observatory, it's a fun experience! And it's free!

1 comment:

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