Montecito A powerful 24-inch reflector telescope was gingerly lowered by crane into Westmont College’s Carroll Observatory this morning. Westmont reports the new high-tech telescope will be the most powerful one between San Francisco and Los Angeles. For the past 50 years, Westmont has been using a 16-inch telescope but, according to Scott Craig, Westmont’s manager of media relations, the instrument installed today will gather twice the amount of light with nearly twice the resolving power.
Westmont physics professors Ken Kihlstrom, Warren Rogers, and Michael Sommermann have waited nearly a year for the telescope. They worked with DFM Engineering in Colorado, who fine tuned the powerful F/8 Cassegrain instrument with Ritchey-Chretien optics.
“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.
The project, which cost $635,000, will allow faculty and students to conduct astronomical research. The observatory will also be open for monthly public viewings. Among the notable donors to the project were the W. M. Keck Foundation, which awarded Westmont a $300,000 grant, and the James L. Stamps Foundation, which gave $90,000 for the project.
Westmont serves as one of the observing sites for the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit (S.B.A.U.). The third Friday of the month, the S.B.A.U. holds public viewings at the observatory. Craig said the upgraded facilities will also provide new opportunities for students in Santa Barbara schools and the community.