About Pages

About This Website

This website has a dual purpose. First, it is intended to share with all my astronomical friends what I am doing at Jupiter Ridge Observatory and share astronomical images (just as many of you do as well). Secondly the site tries to explain those activities and images in ways that will, hopefully, are entertaining and educational to my non-astronomy friends as well.

If you find this site to be interesting why not subscribe to it? There is a sign up box at the bottom of each page. In April and May 2012 I plan a number of updates to get the site populated. After than I suspect I will update the site a couple of times a month. You can, of course unsubscribe at any time.

A Note About the Images

You will see many astronomical images on this website. Many of them are modified to fit the needs of displaying on a web page. Often you will see instructions to “click here for a full-sized image”. When you click on that image you will get a larger. On some browsers you can click that large image a second time and zoom into it and see the image in its native original size (over 3000 pixels wide) as recorded by the QSI CCD camera. On other browers you can expand the image with your fingers.  This is a great way to study the unmodified-for-web-presetation image. Depending on your browser and screen display size you may need to use scroll bars to move around the very large image.

About Jupiter Ridge Observatory

Celestron EdgeHD 14″ Telescope

This site is about activities at Jupiter Ridge Observatory (JRO).  JRO  is located at the Orange County Astronomers deep sky observing site near Anza, CA, some 12 miles NE of Palomar Mountain, home of the world-famous Palomar Observatory. The main observing instrument is a 14″ Celestron EdgeHD Telescope. The main imaging device is a QSI 583 CCD Camera. Wide field imaging is accomplished with a Hyperstar lens mounted at the top end of the telescope producing a wide 1.4 degree field of view ( FOV) and a fast f/1.9 system that will reach down to a very faint 17th magnitude in 15 seconds.

The Jupiter Ridge area of the OCA site is a series of observing pads which were created in 1995. On the same date that the concrete for the pads were poured for the site (December 7, 1995) the Galileo Spacecraft  probe plunged into the Jovian atmosphere taking readings which greatly  helped improved our understanding of the nature of our solar system’s largest planet. Hence the name. JRO has been built on one of the original observing pads at Jupiter Ridge.

About Russell Sipe

I first became interested in astronomy as a hobby in 7th grade when an amateur astronomer provided a star party for my 7th grade science class one evening. He had what I recognize now as something like a Cave or a Parks 10 or 12″ newtonian reflector and showed us the standard planets like you might expect. But then he turned the telescope to nebulae and star clusters that I had never seen the likes of. I was definitely hooked. I bought a department store telescope. I think it was the “BETTER” telescope in the Sears Catalog for those of you that remember thumbing through the Sears Catalog with its “Good, Better, Best” product listings.

The results were typical of those that get into astronomy without getting good advice first. The planets were great. The moon was great. But trying to find those star clusters and nebulae were a real challenge. It was about this time that I discovered girls in a real and meaningful way. The telescope went into the closet. But the bug remained. When I turned 30 years old (the girl-thing wasn’t so new anymore) I found myself drawn back to the night sky like a Mistress of the Night. But enough of my love life. In the Astronomy 101 section of this website I will talk more about the disappointment of amateur astronomy for those who get off on a wrong foot (cheap telescope) instead of the better way ( binoculars, a good chart and a good book).

After spending a few years learning and loving the night sky first  with  a 13.1″ Odyssey “blue monster” dobsonian telescope and then an 18″ Obsession brand dobsonian. I decided to move up.  I sold the Obsession (I miss it to this day) and jumped in with both feet and acquired a 16.25″ custom build cassegrain telescope, converted it to a newtonian telescope and build a large domed observatory at the Orange County Astronomer’s dark sky site near Anza, CA. Two frustrating years later I admitted to myself that I was more of an off-the-shelf guy as opposed to a do it yourself engineer type. Even though I had several good friends at OCA that helped me along on attempting to develop Starcrusier Observatory into a remotely operated facility, the gremlins got me down. That along with the fact that my health was in such a state that I could not stay up much past 11pm made for some disappointing trips to the OCA site. I sold Starcruiser in 2006.

During the late 90’s/early 00’s I also served as the webmaster for Sky & Telescope magazine. Working closely with Rick Feinberg and staff I participated in helping S&T set up their first e-commerce site. In 1999 I was the daily internet reporter for the S&T website on the events on board the 1999 S&T Black Sea Eclipse Cruise. I also served as a live reporter for National Public Radio on the actual eclipse as it passed over us in the middle of the Black Sea. That was a special day.

The warming room and the movable shed covering the telescope

Last summer (2011) I took 15 boxes of astronomy books to the OPT swap meet. I sold 8 boxes of books but found that my love of astronomy was still hiding down in my soul. A couple of newbies came by my tables and the old spirit of helping others with their newfound interest in astronomy gave the spark that I remembered oh so well back in the mid-80’s when I started the EXPLORE THE STARS program up at Palomar’s Observatory campground (a program which continues to this day). It’s a good thing I got some $600 for those eight boxes of boxes. It turned out I was going to need it. And a lot more. I decided to make a new go at it. This time with my health in better shape and the commitment that THIS project would be done with off-the-shelf equipment. And that’s how Jupiter Ridge Observatory came to be.

A Couple of Final Comments

Telescope in the stored position. The metal shed protects the scope in all weather conditions and moves easily out of the way for comfortable viewing by one person or a group.

I talked about building this observatory from turn-key products. Guess what? Turn-key is a relative term in astronomy. Any time you marry one component to another component to accomplish this or that improvement to your system, you will find that turn-key is more a concept that a reality. “Oh sure you can do that, but you will need this $120 device to make it work right.” “Yeah you COULD do that with a $20 zonal clamp, but if you want the best results you will need a mega-zonal digital clamp that can allow for continental drift during imaging. Well, it’s not quite that bad, but you get the idea. And we ALL want the best images or data we can get right?

That aside. I am having a GREAT time with Jupiter Ridge Observatory. And that’s the bottom line, right?

So wanna come along for the ride?



17 Responses to About Pages

  1. Jim Benet says:

    Nice website. You did an excellent job. Enjoyed reading the material in all the tabs. Thanks for all your contributions to amateur astronomy over the past couple of decades.
    ~ Jim

    • Russell says:

      Thanks Jim. I am particularly pleased that you are the first to make a comment on the site. I hope you as the long time head of the OCA outreach program, will pass along the URL to the many many folks you touch at our OCA outreach events. Your dedication over the years is well noted.

  2. Jeff Malmrose says:

    I remember you r first light and all the problems we had that night including finding the pole star and rotating the pier. It is good to see you are now imaging. The summer milky way is coming and there will be a lot of good targets. The website is very nice and I like the shot of the snow on the ground by domes.

  3. Russell says:

    Yes, Jeff. thanks for the help that night. Getting that pier rotated on the base with all that weight was sort of a scary thought for me that night. But you made it look easy.

  4. Shelia Cassidy says:

    I like the personal prose you have – like talking directly to people. And you are so right about “turn-key” being relative! Am enjoying your pages, Russ. Keep up the great work!

    • Zolile says:

      Russell, You have done a great job on your new website! Your descriptions of the layout and construction of the Jupiter Ridge Observatory and your comments regarding the trials and tribulations of this project will be of interest to anyone considering their own observatory.Thank you,Mike

    • Alex says:

      In return for your premiums, the insurance QuotesChimp agrees to accept your risk of loss within the subject matter of the insurance policy (auto, life, health, etc.), in the statistically unlikely event that a loss is incurred. The potential loss to the insurance company from an incident covered by the policy is much higher than the fixed loss of your premium. Thus, you are trading a small but defined loss in order to get the insurance company to absorb an unknown but potentially larger future loss. This agreement is formalized in a written contract.

  5. Danny McCarty says:

    I like the page. Its people like you who will help us get there.

  6. Steve Mastellotto says:

    Hi Russ,

    Been a while since we talked (electronically). I just ran across your website/blog and it looks great. I had no idea you had almost given up on the hobby. Looks like your back with gusto. Nice setup you have – I have heard nothing but good things about the Celestron 14HD.


  7. Tim Hogle says:


    Very impressive web page, and it looks like a first class observatory. I was sorry to see you get out of astronomy a few years ago, and I’m very glad to see that you are back, dedicated once again to top quality outreach and a passion for the beauty of the cosmos.


  8. Kevin Hearst says:

    It is great to see your web site and to see your doing okay. I have thought about you often. I always asked about you when I see the ETS gang (Gill and Buchheim) at the SAS conference in Big Bear each May. But I did not know how to contact you.

  9. Richard Cranston says:

    I have really enjoyed viewing your images since you set up the Jupiter Ridge Observatory website. GREAT JOB! When I look at your images I realize how much I too miss the hobby.

    • Kevin Hearst says:

      Your the other person I have truly missed all these years. We should plan a get together of the old ETS gang at Jupiter Ridge. I would enjoy seeing everyone and getting caught up.

  10. Russell says:

    I love the idea of getting together the old ETS Gang at Jupiter Ridge. If you want to try and do that I would love to host it.

  11. Richard Cranston says:

    I would love to get together. The ETS program is what burnt me out on astronomy. After running the program for a few years, the hassle of coordinating dates, volunteers and speakers took its toll, especially after Fred left. Not even a stint as a Palomar Observatory docent could pull out of the doldrums. I actually still have the lease-hold on the pad I built on Mars Hill, but have not been out there for years. Have a semi-permanent squatter.

  12. Russ,
    Great meeting you this weekend at Anza. Enjoyed looking through the website and learning more about astro-photography. Tom and I enjoyed our trek to OCA even though the conditions were less than optimal. And, I’ll pass your site on to Joel B.

  13. William Johnson says:

    Hi Russ,
    Stumbled across your site today. Impressive. I still recall your visits while observing with Jim at Anza. He was using this new CCD thing… Keep up the good work!

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