What we lose if Fremont Peak Observatory closes:

In a blog post back in May the Frog Mom in California posted about visiting Fremont Peak State Park,  and visiting the observatory:

When we admired Saturn through the telescope, I was dumbfounded. I had never really seen Saturn before I guess. It was so perfectly round and so black-and-white bright that it looked, as my friend Sue put it, “like a sticker on the lens.” A postcard perfect Saturn.

All I can say is get back up here on one of the next two weekends (August 22 or August 29) because after Labor Day the observatory may not be there anymore.

Fremont Peak impending closure

In an effort to close California’s significant budget gap, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has significantly cut funding to the state park system. This is forcing the California State park system to propose closing several state parks, including Fremont Peak State Park, which is where the FPOA Challenger telescope lives.

This closure, if it stands, would be a significant blow to amateur astronomy and to astronomy education in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Fremont Peak Observatory is maintained by over a hundred amateur astronomers who serve the entire region, providing educational opportunities including viewing opportunities, classroom visits, participation in scientific research projects, internships for community college students, lectures, and educational projects and activities. Local schools from elementary classrooms up through community colleges use the resources provided by FPOA.

In a letter to members FPOA president Doug Brown asks for help to:

identify decision-makers,
draft appeal letter templates for distribution to our members and customers, draft media releases,
or make effective contact with representatives and media

Fremont Peak 5/26

Fremont Peak Observatory at sunsetWell, I’m going to be taking the first trip of the season up to the Fremont Peak observatory.

Things have been a bit delayed this year so far, because my oldest daughter was in some local theater productions. I’m a bit worried, because I have some issues going on with my neck, which could make observing painful. I’ve been having the issues for a while (gradual onset of pain over the last couple of years), but they got bad enough for me to go back to my doctor and bug him for a diagnosis. I was sent to get an MRI, and it turns out that I have a bulging or herniated disk between C5 and C6. This is what was causing the pain from my neck down my right arm to my fingertips, and is now causing intermittent tingling/numbness as well.

So, we’ll just have to take things as they come, and see how it goes.

See this post for more pictures from Fremont Peak, and see this post on a presentation I gave to a 5th grade classroom using solar telescopes on loan from FPOA.

If you are in the South San Francisco Bay Area, and are interested in having me come to your elementary/Jr. High classroom and speak about astronomy, please let me know.

University of Washington Observatory

The Theodore Jacobsen ObservatoryAn article in The Daily of the University of Washington
discusses the Theodore Jacobsen Observatory at the University of Washington. The observatory is home to a modest 6-inch but historic telescope built in the late 1890s by Joseph Taylor. The telescope is an f/15 refractor with a 90-inch focal length. A picture of the telescope can be found here.

The observatory and telescopes fell into disuse sometime in the 1970s, but in the late 1990s was restored, and is currently in excellent condition. The telescope uses a weight-driven centrifugally regulated clock drive. The weight is cranked up at the start of observing, and then slowly drops down inside the pier during the session, moving the clockwork right-ascension drive, which keeps the telescope in alignment with the earth’s rotation.

The Observatory also houses a 3-inch Bamberg elbow transit telescope originally purchased by U.W. in the 1920s. According to the article, nobody is really sure how to operate the transit telescope. According to Peter Abrahams a chronograph associated with the transit telescope is apparently not in working condition.

Efforts to restore the observatory and telescopes were begun 11 years ago by undergraduates, who also began an open house program. 2007 Open House Dates are: 5/2, 5/16, 6/6, 6/20, 7/18, 8/1, 8/15, 9/5, 9/19, 10/3, 10/17, 11/7

For more information, see the article above, or the Observatory website.

Fremont Peak


Fremont Peak is about 90 miles south of San Francisco. It is a 3,000 foot peak that overlooks Santa Clara, San Benito, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.

Besides being home to a California State Park, and an antenna farm, it is the home of the Fremont Peak Observatory Association. Operated by a dedicated band of volunteer amateur astronomers, this observatory offers regular public programs on a diverse range of topics related to astronomy. It also offers some of the darkest skies within 100 miles of the San Francisco Bay Area. Continue reading