WWU professor hosts astronomical viewing series

A William Woods University professor plans to host an
astronomical viewing series on campus, using WWU’s massive 14-inch telescope.

The next event is a viewing of Jupiter and its moons,
scheduled at 9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 10, in the library parking lot on Ewing
Street, just across from the university’s stables.  It is free and open to the public.
Dr. Joseph Kyger, assistant professor of chemistry, will be
assisted by two students, Jin-He Wang from Taiwan and Xia Gu from China. Both
are at WWU pursuing Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees.
This viewing series would not have been possible a mere four
years ago, before the observatory atop the Cox Science and Language Building was
In 2007, the university’s grant writing class, taught by Dr. Stephanie
Wells, assistant professor of English, worked with Kyger and Scott Miniea,
associate vice president for university advancement, to write a grant seeking
funds for the renovation of the observatory and the purchase of a new
The Allen P. and Josephine B. Green Foundation in Mexico,
Mo., donated more than $10,000 towards the project. The university also
received funds from various alumni donors that were used to fund the telescope
The observatory was refurbished by 2008, and a Meade LX200R
14” Advanced Ritchey Chetien Astronomical Telescope was purchased. This model
was the most widely used, professional-grade research telescope available at
the time. A Sony GPS Receiver Sensor, and other computer and photographic
equipment were also purchased to complement the telescope.
In 2008, Kyger talked about how important the telescope would
be to the university, “First, it is going to provide us with a new common
studies science course (astronomy). Secondly, it is a wonderful selling point
for our university. It is also going to provide opportunities for the youth of
the community.”
The observatory and telescope have done all that and more,
being used for numerous events, including viewings by local Cub Scout packs and
Boy Scout troops. Kyger set up the telescope at Crane’s Store in Williamsburg
for a 2008 One Read Program in conjunction with the reading of the book, “The
Whistling Season.”

In addition, William Woods students have done
service-learning projects with South Callaway Middle School and provided an
assembly and viewing for Kingdom Christian Academy.

The 2011 astronomical viewing series began Sept. 12 when
Kyger held an event for students to view the moon. He and his student
assistants pointed out the geographical features of the lunar landscape, and
gave students a better idea for the geologic age of the moon. Kyger also took
pictures of the moon in full phase with the telescope.
“It’s always exciting to have a telescope viewing on campus,”
Kyger said. “If you haven’t looked through a quality telescope, like the one the
university owns, you’ll certainly be amazed.”
Kristen Withrow, a junior equine general studies major,
attended the event and explained that, “Through the telescope, the Sea of
Tranquility and other features of the moon took on a unique aura of reality,
looking more like the rugged Arizona landscape than the lunar glow I so
commonly stop to admire.”
Kyger plans other viewing events that will include Saturn and
its rings, the Orion Nebula and other deep space features. At least one of the
future events will be viewing the moon at or just past first quarter phase.
“That’s when we’ll get the best views of the lunar landscape
right along the sunrise-sunset line,” said Kyger.
Mare Serenitatis and Mare
Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility and Apollo 11 landing site) – northeast quadrant
of the moon.