� New Telescope will Enable Scholarly Research and Community Viewings
A huge crane lowered a new 24-inch reflector telescope into Westmont’s Carroll Observatory April 24. The high-tech instrument has getting a lot of attention in the local area.
Physics Professors Ken Kihlstrom, Warren Rogers and Michael Sommermann had anxiously waited for the telescope while DFM Engineering in Colorado spent a year fine-tuning 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,” Sommermann says. “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.”
For the past 50 years, Westmont has used a 16-inch telescope, but the new instrument will gather twice the amount of light with nearly twice the resolving power.
The college did some work to get the observatory ready 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. Westmont will dedicate the instrument Sept. 6 in a ceremony at the observatory.
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, and the James L. Stamps Foundation gave $90,000. Other donors contributed as well, and only $15,000 remains to be raised.
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.