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November 29, 2014 (Mount Laguna)--There’s a brand new, $1.5 million telescope at the observatory atop Mount Laguna in East County.  Astronomers from San Diego State University, which operates the observatory, will now be able to see farther into the universe than in the past.

The new 50-inch telescope is named after the late Phillips Claud, an amateur astronomer who donated more than half the cost of the new reflecting telescope, which uses curved mirrors to reflect light and form an image without a magnifying lens. That’s about 50 percent more powerful than the older 40-inch telescope at the observatory.

San Diego State is one of only a handful of universities worldwide with its own mountaintop astronomical observatory, where students in the astronomy department can learn stargazing skills.  The new telescope will be housed in the observatory’s original dome built in 1968.

Allen Shafter, chair of the SDSU astronomy department, calls Mount Laguna’s observatory “the best astronomical site” in the continental U.S.  At 6100 feet in elevation, it’s also far from city lights. 

There’s another cool thing about the new telescope – it’s robotic and can be operated remotely.  So astronomy professors and their students won’t have to travel to Mount Laguna to make observations, making it easier to amass large amounts of data that might otherwise be missed.

Robert Quimby, the obesrvatory’s new director, helped discover several of the brightest supernovae ever observed, and continues researching why these are 100 times brighter than average, SDSU’s news center reports.

Quimby says, “To do quality research, you don’t have to look deeper and further than the other guys. You just have to be there at the right place and the right time.”


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Visiting the Observatory

When I camped at Burnt Ranch we would drive to the observatory for a slide show and brief info about the SDSU program. Students ran the program and you could view planets and stars through a large telescope. They would stay as late as there were people still there and we waited until a desired star would rise in the sky. Is the public still welcome?