west mountain observatoryAstronomer C. David Laney (BS ’75) and his wife, Gillene, live atop West Mountain in Benjamin, Utah. Although their 6,850-foot vantage point provides a spectacular view of Utah Valley, it wasn’t the view of the landscape that brought them here—it was the view of the cosmos.

BYU built the West Mountain Observatory in 1981 when light pollution became too intense to continue any serious stargazing from Provo. From here Laney, resident astronomer since 2009, scans a clearer night sky using the observatory’s three large telescopes, one of them nearly a meter in diameter.

Laney has studied extensively at prestigious observatories around the world, but the solitude of West Mountain is almost magical for him. “At night you are basically there with nothing between you and the universe but a thin layer of air,” he says. “It’s just you and the sky.” | Photography by Bradley H. Slade (BFA ’94)