Welcome to the
Westmont Observatory is open for public viewing every third Friday of the month at 7:30 p.m., weather permitting. The viewings are held in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit.
955 La Paz Road
Santa Barbara, CA 93108
The original 16" reflecting telescope has been removed to make way for the new instrument referenced above. The following applies to the old instrument, including some of its history and use.
The Westmont College Observatory was dedicated June 1st, 1957. The main dome features a 16.5'' reflector which was made and donated by George Carroll. The scope is equipped for spectroscopic and micrometric work, whose introduction originally made national news. More recently, it caught the limelight as a group of amateur astronomers from the Santa Barbara Astronomy group observed the rotation of Mars with a CCD camera (Astronomy Magazine, Feb. 1989 pg. 92). These were some of the very first CCD images of Mars taken by amateurs.
The observatory is open to the college community and to the general public. It serves as one of the observing sites for the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit, a community based interest group that holds monthly meetings at the observatory site. Every third Friday of the month, the SBAU conducts open viewing nights to which the public is invited, to observe the night sky. In the past several years, this club has made extensive use of the observatory, as well as contributing their own improvements to the facility.
The facility has been used primarily for night sky viewing through eyepieces. The drive mechanism and optical components in the scope made it inadequate for use in high-resolution CCD camera imaging. The new DFM telescope currently under construction and soon to be installed will be perfectly suited for a variety of applications, including public viewings and scholarly research for faculty and students.
An Astronomical Arrival at Westmont
A huge crane lowered a 24-inch reflector telescope into Westmont's Observatory Tuesday, April 24. The new high-tech telescope will be one of the most powerful on California's Central Coast.
Physics Professors Ken Kihlstrom, Warren Rogers and Michael Sommermann have been anxiously waiting for the telescope while DFM Engineering in Colorado spent a year fine tuning the powerful F/8 Cassegrain instrument with Ritchey-Chretien optics.
For the past 50 years, Westmont has been using a 16-inch telescope, but the new instrument will gather twice the amount of light with nearly twice the resolving power.
"The telescope will be a magnet for astronomy enthusiasts around Santa Barbara and the South Coast," says Sommermann. "It will become a focal point for astronomical research by faculty and students in areas such as the photometry of variable stars, minor planet observations and much more."
The college has already remodeled the observatory for the new computer-controlled telescope which will be more securely mounted to take extended exposure photography. Viewing will take place in a room below the telescope.
Thanks to the $635,000 project, faculty and students will conduct astronomical research and the observatory will be open for monthly public viewings. The W. M. Keck Foundation awarded Westmont a $300,000 grant for the telescope. The James L. Stamps Foundation also gave $90,000 for the project. College officials are raising the remaining funds.
Westmont serves as one of the observing sites for the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit (S.B.A.U.). Every third Friday of the month, the S.B.A.U. holds public viewings at the observatory. The upgraded facilities will also provide new opportunities for outreach to children and students in Santa Barbara schools and the community.