2008 July 25

Dr. Scott Severson and Sonoma State University undergraduates Adam Dye, Katherine Wyman and Connor Ross bring the "seeing" monitor, a device for measuring atmospheric turbulence, to the site. The setup went smoothly and the skies were extremely dark allowing for excellent star-gazing once the equipment was set up and observations underway. This new monitoring system is a great step forward in astronomical site testing.

Dr. Severson takes a momentary break following the initial setup.

Adam Dye and Connor Ross unload equipment as the sun recedes in the West.

Katherine Wyman and Adam Dye check the line of site to Polaris, the "North Star", the seeing monitor's target.

2008 July

Deanna Gelosi, a student at Analy High, joins the Astronomical Instrumentation laboratory of Dr. Scott Severson for her summer internship. The STEM internship program partners Sonoma State University faculty with area high school students in the inaugural year of this brand new partnership.

Dr. Severson and Deanna Gelosi review the operation of the "seeing" monitor using a laser as an artificial "star."

Deanna Gelosi proudly displays the Hartmann aperture mask she made in the School of Science and Technology machine shop. This mask allows for precise measurements of atmospheric turbulence with the Sonoma State University campus observatory telescope.

A CCD image taken with the 0.25-meter Epoch telescope showing multiple images of Vega. Relative image motion between these spots is a direct measure of the size scale of turbulence in the Earth's atmosphere. Deanna Gelosi, current SSU undergraduate Timothy Hessong, and SSU alumnus Ryan McDaniel assisted Dr. Severson in these observations.

Miss Gelosi's contributions to the GWPO effort were substantial and very much appreciated!

2008 Summer

The Galbreath Wildlands Preserve Observatory web site is rennovated. Local Rohnert Park Technology High School students Jesse Nee-Vogleman and Stephan Boyer volunteer their time to the GWPO project. This new web site is a key component of their work. The new site includes a conversion to the School of Science and Technology web site format. The students have incorporated material from the original web site with brand new material showcasing GWPO's bright future. The content of the site has benefitted tremendously by the original work of Dr. Gordon Spear.

2008 May 12

Sonoma State University undergraduates Orion Leland and David Cranford complete their Environmental Studies project. Entitled "Galbreath Wildlands Preserve Observatory Off-Grid Power Feasibility Study", the work represents a thorough energy budget and alternative energy production and storage white paper for the GWPO project. Many Thanks are owed to Dr. Alexandra von Meier, for her supervision and support.

Dr. Gordon Spear seen pointing out the southern exposure available at the GWPO testing site during an earlier visit with Orion Leland and David Cranford.

2008 May 4

Sonoma State geologist Dr. Matty Mookergee and his students Amanda and Dan visited GWP. They stopped within the preserve to examine some of the rock outcroppings.

But they were primarily headed for Observatory Ridge in the Western Highlands. They used a ground penetrating radar system to explore conditions below the surface layers at the proposed observatory site.

Above the team is planning their measurements, and below the students are dragging the ground penetrating radar system across a grid pattern on the crest of the Observatory Ridge site. These measurements will enable us to evaluate the suitability of the site for the construction that will be required to establish the observatory. The students, under Dr. Mookergee's supervision, will be preparing a report that documents their findings.

2008 March 31

Students Orion Oreland and David Cranfield visited GWP and the Western Highlands site on Observatory Ridge. As part of an Environmental Studies class these students are preparing a report that will provide the technical details required for a solar power system that can run the completed observatory and support buildings.

After their preliminary visit to the site the students reported that the Observatory Ridge site could definitely support the infrastructure necessary for a complete off-grid solar power system to provide power for the observatory.

2008 March 1

After the storms and low sun angles of winter, it appears that the solar power system is again able to maintain sufficient power for the instrumentation. Cloud cover data and weather data will be available for March 2008.

2007 Fall

By the end of September the solar power system began to have difficulty providing power to the instrumentation. This was due to a combination of lower sun angles and many days of cloud cover due to passing storm systems. The two solar panels are damaged and the glass cover glass is extensively cracked. The efficiency of the solar panels is obviously compromised. (The panels were donated to the project by the student who constructed the original S3U.) It seems that to keep the instruments running through the winter it may be necessary to acquire new, or at least undamaged solar panels. It may also be necessary to add an additional panel to the array.

2007 September 21

Michael Fulton and Chris Patton visited GWP. Michael is a Sonoma State graduate and the president and CEO of Ion Beam Electronics. Chris is a film maker and president of TESLA Sustainable Homes. Both are partners with World's Nest (http://www.worldsnest.com/), an organization committed to alternative energy and sustainability for all human activities.

Chris is on the left and Michael on the right in front of the S3U at the Observatory Ridge site. Michael and Chris are interested in helping us to develop the Galbreath Observatory in a completely sustainable manner using green techniques and materials. We could be the first major astronomical observatory to be developed to be completely sustainable and to use entirely alternative energy systems. Chris is interested in making a movie about the development of the observatory as a completely green and sustainable scientific facility.

2007 August

Dr. Scott Severson joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy as a tenure track faculty member. Scott is an observational astronomer with research interests that focus on adaptive optics. Scott was hired, in part, to lead the effort to establish an astronomical observatory at the Galbreath Preserve. Scott's previous experience with establishing an observatory was the facility he helped to establish at the South Pole in Antartica.

2007 June, July, August

Cloud cover data and meteorological data began to be accumulated in June 2007 from the Observatory Ridge site. This data will be used in an attempt to validate this site as being suitable for the establishment of a major observatory facility. Preliminary results indicated that the site is totally free from costal fog. For this period of time more than 90% of the nights would have been suitable for astronomical observations.

2007 May 27

The S3U installation was completed on the Observatory Ridge site and data collection was begun.

This image shows the redesigned S3U. The weather station and cloud sensor is further up the hill in the background.

The weather station and its installation platform is above. GGS is pointing to the cloud sensor below.

2007 Spring

Redesign and construction of an improved S3U was begun. A set of 6 golf cart batteries was acquired and a new battery box was constructed. The prototype on the SSU campus was disassembled and transported to the Galbreath Preserve.

2006 November

A platform was constructed at the leveled area on Observatory Ridge to accommodate the S3U. Access to the site by vehicle to bring in the necessary supplies was... challenging.

The picture below shows the S3U installation site as viewed from the bottom of the hill.

The road along Observatory Ridge is in the foreground.

2006 October

It was concluded that the Observatory Ridge site in the Western Highlands was apparently the best possible site for an observatory. The S3U would be used for a site validation study to verify the suitability of this location. To prepare for installing the S3U, an area on a south-facing slope near the high point along Observatory Ridge was cleared and leveled. Since the seeing monitor would need to view the pole star (Polaris), a few trees were removed along the top of the ridge to provide a clear line of site toward the North Celestial Pole.

This is a picture of the leveled area where the S3U will be installed.

2006 Summer

Problems with the prototype S3U were evaluated. The primary problems were that the temperature in the instrument shelter could become too high, and the batteries were insufficient to run the equipment. A fan controlled by a thermostat was added to the instrument shelter, and research to identify better batteries was begun. (The original batteries were merely two deep-cycle marine batteries.) It was also realized that an additional solar panel would likely be needed to power the unit during the winter months.


Exploration of the Galbreath Preserve continued. Additional possible observatory sites were examined, but the site along Observatory Ridge continued to appear as the best possibility.

2006 May

The prototype S3U began operation on the SSU campus in the organic garden next to the Environmental Technology Center.

A "First Sunbeams" event marked the beginning of S3U operations. GGS made a few remarks at the event and an online version of those remarks is available.

2006 Spring

Major repairs to roads and bridges have been completed. Bridge 4 was replaced. The berms across the road to the Western Highlands were removed and the road was improved. The road to the Western Highlands became passable by 4WD.

A solar powered device to record environmental data in the preserve was designed and a prototype was built. This device became known as the Site Survey Solar Unit (S3U), as it would be used to conduct the site survey for the observatory. There would be a separate instrument shelter and a battery box. In addition to a solar panel, a charge control unit, and batteries, the device would consist of a weather station, cloud sensor, and seeing monitor.

2006 March

Charlie Hyatt showed us the Western Highlands region of the preserve. Road was crossed by berms left after logging to prevent washouts. Passable by ATV, but not by 4WD. Charlie showed us an excellent possible site along a high ridge. We now call this area Observatory Ridge.

This picture shows the highest point along Observatory Ridge. The road is in the foreground and runs off to the left.

2006 January 25

GGS made a brief presentation to the School of Science and Technology faculty and staff at the start of the Spring 2006 semester. The Vision for the project was described and examples were shown to illustrate the appearance of a 1-meter class telescope and the types of building structures that will be required. A slightly expanded online version of the presentation is available.

2006 January 19

GGS visited the preserve with Charlie Hyatt using an ATV. Road was washed out at first hill past the gate. The road was passable on an ATV, but would not have been passable by 4WD. Several of the bridges showed minor damage due to undercutting from the rains. Visited several possible observatory sites.