WEATHER »
SBIG owners Alan Holmes (left) and Mike Barber holding the latest camera model, STX-16803.

Paul Wellman

SBIG owners Alan Holmes (left) and Mike Barber holding the latest camera model, STX-16803.


Hobbyists to Heroes: Santa Barbara Instrument Group (SBIG)

How five friends went from being telescope amateurs to big-time pros.


When a group of five friends started staring at the night skies over Santa Barbara back in the 1980s, no one would have guessed that their after-work passion would turn into a full-time profession. That’s what happened to the founders of the Santa Barbara Instrument Group (SBIG), which is today one of the biggest players on the world’s astronomy stage.

“We were all amateur astronomers as a hobby, but we didn’t want to just go out and look at stars,” said Mike Barber, who was working as an attorney at the time. “We wanted to do some real work.” Specifically, they wanted to track mysterious gamma ray bursts, which required focusing their telescopes on certain spots and then, throughout the night, frequently going outside to tweak the angle. “It was tedious,” recalled Barber, so they decided to make a system that would automatically follow points in the sky.

To do so, they purchased a brand-new tool called a charge-coupled device, or CCD – which today is in everyone’s cell phone – and built a tracker. “It worked so well we decided to make them available commercially,” said Barber, and they struck stargazing gold, eventually developing a whole line of CCD cameras.

“We started in a garage,” said Barber, “and now we are one of the largest suppliers of CCD cameras to amateurs and universities and colleges in the world.”

See sbig.com.

To submit a comment on this article, email letters@independent.com or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email tips@independent.com.



Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Muslim Students Organize Vigil for New Zealand Victims

Attack that killed 51 people described as “act of pure evil and terrorism” by UCSB students.

News Commentary: Death Penalty Shouts and Whispers

Governor's reprieve has little effect in Santa Barbara, except in the Han case.

Goleta Planning Commissioners Just Say ‘No’

Vociferous comments from Old Town residents help tip the balance for oversight on cannabis storefront applications.

Bullet Holes Found in Goleta Barbershop Window

Public's help requested in shooting investigation.

Free Emergency Response Training

The Independent is hosting a CERT class with County Fire's Mike Eliason.