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
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.
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
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?