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- Laguna Mountain Lodge & Store
- 10678 Sunrise Hwy - Mt. Laguna - San Diego County
- California 91948 - United States
Located fifty miles East of San Diego, at an altitude of over 6100 ft. (1859 meters), nestled in the remoteness and isolation of the Cleveland National Forest, Mount Laguna Observatory is where astronomers from San Diego State University conduct research into the nature of the universe.
Considered one of the finest observing locations in the continental U.S., now with four telescopes at their disposal, the faculty and students of the astronomy department are endowed with a superbly equipped facility located in an outstanding site.
In addition to the research going on at Mount Laguna, there is a strong public viewing program going on all year long. Mount Laguna Associates along with Astronomy students from SDSU host star parties free to the public on Friday and Saturday nights during the summer months.
Located fifty miles east of downtown San Diego and about fifty miles south of the Mount Palomar Observatory (also located in the Cleveland National Forest), and at an altitude of 6100 feet, the Mount Laguna Observatory tour starts here at the parking lot and the Star Party Trailhead. Yes, that is snow on the ground. Mount Laguna receives a generous dusting of snow each winter, sometimes rendering the roads impassable.
Only 50 miles from San Diego and at 6,000 feet, Mount Laguna offers store, motels and cabins in the beautiful Cleveland National Forest. Laguna provides an easy getaway for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, camping, relaxing, spiritual meditation and family activities.
Mount Laguna Observatory
You are standing in front of the Harrington Visitors' Center, after hiking up the Star Party trail beneath the oaks and pines of the National Forest from the parking lot about a hundred feet below.
The Cleveland National Forest, which encloses the Laguna Mountain Recreation area, as well as Palomar mountain, has been protected by San Diego county ordinance from excessive development. The dark sky near each of these observatories is therefore protected. Preservation of the forest greenery surrounding the Observatory reduces ground-level turbulent air currents which affect image stability and improves telescope performance. Measurements of the brightness of the night sky, caused primarily by the feeble glow of our own atmosphere, establish that the sky here is as dark as that at the darkest known major observatory sites in the continental US. The Mount Laguna Observatory site is one of the few remaining truly excellent dark sky sites in North America. The city of San Diego, however, recently repealed its commitment to low pressure sodium street lighting, which was useful for reducing light pollution. Astronomers are working with the city council to devise useful alternatives.
Mt. Laguna Observatory Facilities
The telescope is run jointly by San Diego State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In addition to the faculty at San Diego State University and the University of Illinois, graduate students use the 40" for observations leading to their thesis. Presently the undergraduate students are able to conduct research under the supervision of the faculty using the observatory's 16" telescope or the 24" Smith telescope. Each of these instruments is equipped with state-of-the-art electronic detectors used primarily to measure the brightnesses of stars. Much of the undergraduate research done on these telescopes is ultimately used as the basis for a senior project or Master's thesis. The Observatory has plans for the construction of a 100" telescope which is not currently funded. SDSU is seeking donors for the estimated $2.5 Million cost of the instrument.
MLO 40" Telescope
The one meter telescope at Mt. Laguna Observatory is the main research instrument and was moved here in an association with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The telescope is usually equipped with an 2048x2048 thinned AR coated CCD. The 2k CCD is operated in single readout mode, and has 15 micron pixels. The QE of this CCD peaks at approximately 98% at 5500 Angstroms. The CCD was manufactured my Loral and was thinned by Mike Lesser at Steward Observatories CCD lab. Currently under development is a spectrograph of the Ebert-Fastie type, fed by an optical fiber from the cassegrain focus of the telescope. This instrument will improve spectral resolution as well as stability over the older spectrographic instruments, and is due for completion within the year. The telescope mount, built by Astro-Mechanics, is of equatorial off-axis design. The telescope optics include a focal reducer, with 85mm and 50 mm lenses. The 85mm lens give the observer 1.01 arcseconds per pixel at f/7.5 (Ritchey-Chretien focus), and the 50mm lens give 1.56 arcseconds per pixel at f7.5. The telescope can also operate at f/13.5 (Cassegrain focus).
The telescope can also have a either a Grism or Cassegrain spectrograph attached to it. The Grism spectrograph gives the observer wavelength coverage from 4000 to 7000 Angstroms at 6.7 Angstroms per pixel on the TI 800x800 CCD. The Cassegrain spectrograph can be operated with gratings betwenn 400 and 1200 lines per millimeter to vary coverage.
Lastly the one meter can have a automated photometer attached to it. The photometer isn't used much on the 40" as it is primarily used for direct imaging. The photometer detector can be a RCA 31034, EMI 9789QB, or various others. Standard UBVRI, Stromgren and DDO filter sets are used with each instrument. The observatory site is approximately 60% photometric and 75% spetroscopic. With the worst month for observing being March. The sky glow from San Diego and the adjoining areas is about 5% at the zenith.
A wonderful place to live and visit. Situated in the Laguna Mountains, one hour from San Diego, all four seasons are a visual delight. Gold discovered in a nearby creek brought an on-rush of prospectors in the 1870s. As the gold dwindled, homesteaders realized that the area was ideal for growing apples and pears as well as abundant grazing for cattle. Visitors can learn about this historical town through tours of the Eagle Gold Mine and Pioneer Museum, or browse through the many craft and antique shops. There is also unlimited hiking in nearby parks and preserve. Boating and fishing are close on Lake Cuyamaca. Mt. Laguna has special events scheduled year-round. And don't forget to try an apple pie from your favorite bakery in town.
9 Miles north of Interstate 8 Just north of Mile Marker 23 on Sunrise Highway Next door to Burnt Rancheria - 20 Miles or 25 minutes from Julian, CA 18 Miles or 20 minutes from the Cuyamaca’s.
Sunshine is down near its lowest level of the year with 78% of the possible sunshine. However this, like most other parameters, is a relative number. 78% is still high in comparison to most other locations. San Diego, one of the nation's most attractive climates has just 75% sunshine in its sunniest month. Precipitation occasionally occurs with passing storms and fronts, but tends not to be excessive. The monthly average precipitation is less than 1 inch falling on an average of just 4 days.