Campus Observatories

Standeford Observatory HISTORY

In 1978, Dr. Leo V. Standeford — professor of astronomy at MSU from 1968 to 1981 — acquired a 3–meter Observa–DOME and placed it on the roof of Trafton Science Center. There it sheltered the small telescopes used for student observations. However, vibration of the roof made this site less than ideal for observing, resulting in the relocation of the dome to the south edge of campus.

By 1980, the observatory was a fenced enclosure containing the Observa-DOME on a concrete pad, but without any telescope inside the dome. A small metal storage shed and an experimental radio telescope — built by Dr. Standeford and his students — also shared space on the pad. Dr. Standeford was constructing a 12.5-inch Cassegrain telescope for use in the dome at the time of his death in June, 1981.


In the next year, the astronomy faculty worked to make the observatory functional, removing the radio telescope from the site and purchasing a Celestron 11 (an 11-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain) in the spring of 1982. A concrete pier was poured, the new telescope was installed, and Leo V. Standeford Observatory was dedicated by President Margaret Preska on May 1, 1982.


Soon after the dedication, a windstorm destroyed the metal storage shed; but in the fall of 1983 a new shed was constructed to accommodate the observatory's additional telescopes, a collection that has increased significantly over the years.

In August 2003 after 21 years of hard use, the C11 was retired from the dome and replaced by the 14" Meade LX200. A new base was constructed for the C11, and it now serves outside the dome with the other telescopes used at the site.

In May, 2005, after 23 years of manual dome rotation, the Standeford Observa-DOME was finally motorized. Azimuthal motors were apparently not standard equipment in 1978, but the Observa-DOME folks were happy to fabricate a special bracket that mounts one of their motor-driven tires on the dome. Now the dome can be rotated by throwing a switch, making the observing assistants' job that much easier.   A new dome motor was installed in May 2005, though this motor has suffered as of late.


From 1982 to 2006, Standeford Observatory was located on the southern edge of campus about 250 yards southeast of the Gage dormitory parking lot

In the summer of 2006, Standeford Observatory was relocated to a new site farther south, about 400 yards beyond the Lot 1 gate, in the woods next to the MSU Ropes Course. This location provides better screening from campus lighting, a larger observing pad and storage shed for the Standeford telescopes, and improved event coordination with Andreas Observatory, only 150 yards to the east.