Brackett Observatory

Built in 1908, Brackett Observatory at Pomona College in Claremont, CA is pictured here against a rare cloudy sky. The closer dome above the “rock house” is called Whitney while the farther dome is known as Brackett. On top of Brackett is a third and much smaller dome that houses a 10″ MeadeLX200, named Robodome, which can be outfitted for automatic robotic observing. Brackett Observatory is the on-campus hub for Pomona College’s dynamic astronomy program, which includes two 14″ computer controlled Paramount telescopes, equipped with both video and thermoelectrically cooled CCD cameras, a solar H-alpha telescope, and other research-grade equipment. The observatory is also a site for remotely operating our Pomona College 1-meter telescope, based in Wrightwood, CA in the nearby San Gabriel mountains at 7500 feet.

The main observatory building also houses a classroom, offices, and storage space. The 2001 renovation of Brackett included replacing the very old 12″ and 22″ telescopes with brand new 14″ Celestron reflectors. A second Paramount ME system was added in 2003. These systems are fully equipped with CCD cameras for both planetary and deep sky imaging. In addition the telescopes can be operated remotely for lab and research projects by students.

New upgrades include a Lucky-camera imaging system for ultra-high resolution planetary and solar imaging. This project is a collaboration between Dr. Bryan Penprase, Director of the Brackett Observatory, and student Franklin Marsh ’17. The Lucky-camera technique uses a state of the art video system with high-speed USB-3 link to a graphics computer to acquire literally thousands of video frames of astronomical targets. Software is able to select the sharpest 0.5 percent of the images, in which atmospheric blurring is minimal, and the images are close to diffraction limited.

With this new system, it is possible for Pomona Colleges students to acquire Hubble Space Telescope-like high resolution imaging of planets, and the sun with our H-alpha solar telescope. A new research program is being launched using this capability to monitor weather on Jupiter and Saturn, and to provide high quality imaging of near earth asteroids. Below are some sample images from this technique.

Jupiter as viewed from the Pomona College Brackett Observatory, with the Lucky-imaging high-speed video technique. This image was created by Franklin Marsh ’17, and shows the fantastic resolution possible with our 14″ telescope and advanced software.

This dramatic composite solar image was taken by Franklin Marsh ’17 using our H-alpha solar telescope, and combines two exposure levels to view both the surface texture of the sun and the filaments and prominences at the edge of the sun. New research monitoring solar flares using high-resolution imaging is possible with our Brackett systems.

This fantastic solar image, taken at Brackett Observatory by Franklin Marsh ’17 shows the incredible resolution possible with Lucky-imaging at our Brackett site.

This video, taken by Pomona students Franklin Marsh ’17, Isaac Levy-Rubinett and Connor Roberts from Brackett Observatory shows Jupiter through the 14″ telescope, with the great Red spot visible, and one of Jupiter’s moons. These observations were part of the final project by Isaac and Conner for our Pomona College Astronomy 9 class. Even introductory astronomy students can take images like these as part of their coursework at Pomona College.

This solar video is a 40-minute timelapse from our Brackett Observatory H-alpha telescope, again taken by Franklin Marsh ’17. Notice the motion within the solar flares!