3 ways to learn about astronomical wonders in Fort Collins

Julia Trowbridge

From Saturn to the Milky Way, the night sky is filled with astronomical wonders.

Astronomy, often described as a gateway science, allows people to view objects in the sky that are not visible to the naked eye and educates people on the science behind these objects. Seeing Saturn up close with a telescope or meteors and comets can be a life-changing experience that makes people realize how small Earth is in perspective. Here are some ways in the City of Fort Collins to learn more about the unknown in the universe.

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Colorado State University Observatory

Home to one of the oldest artifacts on campus, the CSU Observatory has both a small and a larger telescope. With these, the Observatory hosts public viewing nights and viewing nights for CSU classes, open to everyone from toddlers to grandparents.

One of the hosts of these viewing nights, astronomy professor Emily Hardegree-Ullman and Head Observatory Technician Heather Michalak, show the night sky to the community of Fort Collins because of the amazement of the viewers when they see these far away objects up close.

Michalak remembers looking for Haley’s comet with her uncle when she young, which marked the beginning of her passion for astronomy, she said.

“When he finally found it, it was this tiny little smudge,” Michalak said. “It was a neat thing to see. Haley’s comet only comes around every 70 years. If I’m lucky enough, I might be able to see it again.”

The Observatory, located on the south end of East Street, is hosting two more public viewings this semester, and might add some in November if the weather allows. The Observatory hosts around four public viewings each semester.

Next viewing nights at the CSU Observatory

  • Friday, Oct. 6
  • Friday, Oct. 20
bench and cover silhouetted by the milky way
A view of the milky way from the Pawnee Buttes, one of the locations the Colorado State Astronomy Club has visited to gaze at the stars. (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

Colorado State Astronomy Club

Created around Fall 2016 by Norman Revere, a junior studying biological sciences, the Colorado State Astronomy Club has picked up to around 50 people registered for the club. The CSAC is hoping to do more outreach to educate others about astronomy. Currently, the CSAC meets twice a month to gaze at extraterrestrial objects and to learn more about the sky around them.

The CSAC does more traveling for their stargazing, in order to get away from the light pollution of the city. So far, they have gone out to the Pawnee Buttes for these trips, have visited the Estes Observatory and hope to visit other observatories and to travel to other stargazing locations.

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“To (view the stars), you need to get out of the city,” Revere said. “They really need to be experienced in nature.”

The CSAC meets on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month in room A302 in the Natural and Environmental Sciences Building on East Street.

Next CSAC meeting

  • Date: Wednesday, Oct. 11 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Location: Natural and Environmental Sciences Building, A302

Northern Colorado Astronomical Society

Including monthly meetings with guest speakers from NASA and Colorado University at Boulder and outreach events, the Northern Colorado Astronomical Society is a club of amateur astronomers with a passion for the night sky. The club has gone out to fossil creek reservoir and bobcat ridge with visitor numbers ranging from 50 to 200 people. Members with their own equipment teach others about the stars and gaze at extraterrestrial objects.

“Being shown things out into the unknown sparks an interest in some people,” said Trevor Moriarty, a senior studying chemistry and President of the NCAS. “One of our favorite objects to show are planets like Jupiter and Saturn. It looks like an image on the other side of the telescope. Some people think it’s fake when they first look at it.”

Although membership costs $20 annually, the monthly meetings and outreach events are free for all to attend. Moriarty encourages those who are interested to check out the speaker and see if they are interested in learning more about that particular facet of society.

Next major events for NCAS

  • Monthly meeting: Thursday, Oct. 5 at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery
  • Outreach at Devil’s Backbone: Friday, Oct. 13
  • Outreach at Bobcat Ridge: Sat, Oct. 21

Reporter Julia Trowbridge can be reached at entertainement@collegian.com or on twitter @chapin_jules.