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Astronomy Class Observes the Heavens at Camp Casey



Allie Cutting

Each spring, Professor Doug Downing, associate professor of economics and adjunct professor of astronomy, brings his astronomy class to Seattle Pacific University's Camp Casey Conference Center, located a short ferry ride away on Whidbey Island. Students enjoy some practical hands-on viewing of the moon, nebulae, and constellations. Camp Casey is far enough away from the city lights and other light pollution to make it ideal for night-sky viewing.

"It's not so much about academics but the process," Professor Downing said. Students have the opportunity to experience viewing the night sky through a telescope that they set up and align themselves. They experience the romance of being outdoors and viewing the sky, instead of simply reviewing images on a laptop from telescopes set up around the world.

While at Camp Casey this year, Professor Downing showed views of the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon, as well as Jupiter and three of its four moons. He explained that spring is the best time to view Saturn and its rings.

"I became an economics teacher because of stories my parents told about growing up in the Depression and seeing the need to find ways to help solve economic problems," Professor Downing states on his website. "I teach astronomy because it is very fun."

At Camp Casey, Professor Downing uses a 25" f/5 Obsession telescope. The Newtonian reflector, with a Dobsonian mount, combines great optics for viewing and portability. The 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 when they're visiting.

–– Based on Camp Casey Conference Center blog ; by Amber Maechler

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