SUU joins the Ashcroft Observatory for a night under the stars

Cedar City residents and Southern Utah University students gathered atop a hill on the western edge of town to gaze at the stars with the Ashcroft Observatory on Thursday, Nov. 9. Though the night was cold, the sky was clear and the November stars gleamed.

The Ashcroft Observatory was built in the 1970s and still remains a vital teaching lab where community members come to learn about the sky. Thursday’s event was held by the Student Alumni Association in partnership with the observatory to provide students with the opportunity to complete an SUU tradition, as well as enjoy an evening learning about astronomy. 

“One of the luckiest things about coming to SUU is the scenery, the outdoors and getting these kinds of opportunities,” Student Alumni Association President Molly Costello said. “Being from Vegas, I never really got to see the stars or anything of the sort.”

This is only the second year that the SAA has put on this event, but Costello already describes this activity as something special to SUU. This is in large part because the Ashcroft Observatory is run by a SUU physics professor with a passion for astronomy: Cameron Pace. Pace is thrilled to share his love for the night sky with students, allowing them the unique opportunity of using high quality telescopes to see out-of-this-world views. 

“Ninety percent of humanity lives in a place where you can’t see the Milky Way from your house,” Pace shared. He was fortunate to grow up in the small town of Bicknell, Utah, under the blanket of a dark, unpolluted sky, which is what sparked his love for astronomy. 

Cedar City is another rare place where stars can be visible from a person’s backyard, which is why Ashcroft Observatory was able to be built on the outskirts of town. As the community expands and houses are built closer to the observatory, many people have brought up the possibility of moving locations.

“No, I don’t want to move it,” Pace countered. “We are here to serve the community.”

On Mondays, they host a public night where they invite the community to join them in viewing and studying the galaxy. Weather-related concerns and cancellations are posted on their Facebook page. Spend a night under the stars and keep an SUU tradition by taking advantage of being able to see such clear stars in southern Utah. 


Author: Heather Turner
Photographer: Heather Turner
Editor: Lily Brunson