Mount Laguna Observatory (MLO) is operated by the SDSU Department of Astronomy to support its research, training, and educational programs. Current institutional partners include the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and the University of Kansas (KU). MLO is located 45 miles east of downtown San Diego at a dark site in the Cleveland National Forest at an altitude of 6100 feet (1859 meters). The three major research instruments and their auxiliary equipment are: the 50-inch (1.25-meter) Phillips Claud reflector with KU, currently under construction (4K^2 CCD camera system) replaces the original 16-inch research telescope when the observatory was dedicated in 1968; the 40-inch (1.0-meter) reflector with UIUC, manufactured by Astro Mechanics, Inc. (two CCD cameras, Cassegrain spectrograph, Near IR camera, automated photometer, coude bench spectrograph); and the Clifford Smith 24-inch (0.6-meter) reflector (automated photometer, SBIG CCD camera); A five bedroom apartment building, four bedroom dormitory, and large shop building are also located on site. Instrument and CCD development are carried out at the on-campus mechanical and electronics shops. Observatory support staff includes a resident astronomer, an engineer, and observatory superintendent.
Sky conditions at MLO are photometric 60% of the time and spectroscopic 75% of the time. The poorer weather usually occurs in late Winter and early Spring (February and March). The Summer monsoon conditions that plague Kitt Peak in July and August are greatly moderated at MLO. The sky glow from San Diego and other urban areas contributes only about 5% at the zenith on moonless nights. Thus, on these dark nights, the sky brightness at the zenith in the Johnson B filter averages 22.8 magnitudes per square arcsecond. Seeing is generally less than two arcseconds and frequently less than one arcsecond.
Our students engage in observational projects with the three research telescopes under the direction of the faculty. The 24-inch Smith telescope allows for extended observing runs for long-term projects, which are usually photometric in nature, as the bases of Master's and Senior theses. Graduate student research with the 40-inch Astro Mechanics telescope takes advantage of its direct-imaging and spectroscopic capabilities. The 50-inch Claud reflector will be operated from the SDSU and KU campuses over the Internet in both remote and robotic modes. The Claud reflector will be used exclusively for direct-imaging projects.
The Reginald Buller 21-inch (0.5-meter) Visitors' telescope, manufactured by J.W. Fecker, Inc., is used for instructional support of our General Education Astronomy classes and labs and for special SDSU public outreach programs. This classic telescope has superb optics for viewing by eye.