Welcome to the Barden Ridge Observatory Home Page
The Barden Ridge observatory is a privately owned and operated by Peter Ward, and is located around 30km to the south of the Sydney central business district. Barden Ridge runs along the top of the Woronora River valley, with the Royal National Park to the east, Holsworthy Reserve and Heathcote National parks to the south. The observatory is used for astronomical equipment testing, CCD imaging and hydrogen alpha solar observations.
Supernova in Centaurus A
The dome is a Sirius 2.3 metre "home-model" fibreglass dome. It is around 25 years old now, having withstood numerous Sydney thunderstorms, downpours and hail with ease.
Apart from the occasional "cut and polish" using automotive cleaners, the observatory has required little maintenance.
It is fully robotic, with both shutter and dome rotation being controllable via a cat-5 network cable running to the house.
Work is currently underway to have the system accessible via the internet.
You can view a gallery of images here
Results from the CWAS David Malin Awards can be found here
The main telescope is an Alluna Optics 16" Ritchey-Chretien. An Astro-Physics GTX F6.3 is used for Solar Imaging
Also used are an AP155 F7 refractor and AP305mm Riccardi Honders Astrograph
The mount is a Paramount MEII.
The mount is attached to a 10" diameter, powder-coated steel pier, dyna-bolted to a concrete and brick column below the observatory deck.
Weather monitoring is carried out by a Boltwood Mark II weather sensor. It measures mean wind speed, humidity, cloud cover, ambient light and detects rainfall...plus the occasional arachnid that wanders under the lower sensor, thus closing the dome !
Things that make the observatory work better 1:
Sometimes the Boltwood monitor misses high/thin cloud.
This camera uses a Point Grey Cricket IP camera and uploads images to the Web every 3 minutes
The all-weather housing is made from some PVC plumbing parts, duct tape, and an acrylic dome from a RC drone, ugly but functional !
Things that make the dome work better 2: Delonghi de-humidifier, on a self timer that activates just before dawn. The clear plastic tube drains to underneath the observatory deck.
The carpeted floor has saved many an eyepiece and instrument from certain destruction.
The image above is typical of the imaging performance the RH305mm telescope.
This deep image of the Horse Head nebula was taken over many nights, partly due to the very dim nature of the dust cloud, but mainly due the massive amount of sky glow from the Sydney urban sprawl.
Things that make the observatory better 3:
NPort USB to RS232 hub.
Essential for controlling the dome, filter-wheels etc.
The business end of the telescopes. The RC16 is fitted with a Telescope Control Centre which controls and monitors:
- Absolute focus,
- fan speed,
- ambient, primary and secondary temperatures.
- secondary dew heater
- Instrument rotator
The Precision Instrument Rotator (PIR) can rotate the CCD camera to a repeatable 0.1 of a degree for guide star acquisition.
The 16 Megapixel SBIG STX16803 uses 65mm square filters.
A second 6.0 megapixel Point Grey CCD is used for solar images. Looking a bit like Frankenstein's monster the camera is cooler via two PC CPU heatsinks and fans coupled to 2x 60 watt peltier coolers. As a result the camera typically reports an operating temperature of around 24 degrees....a vast improvement over its normal 40 degree operating temperature!
The camera is also used with a SBIG CFW10 filter-wheel fitted with Custom Scientific SII, H-Alpha (3nm and 10nm) OIII filters plus Astro-Don RGB imaging filters for occasional planetary imaging sessions.
Above: The transit of Venus...required a field trip! Below: The great nebula in Carina Above: M8 and M20, also from the observatory. Below: Sun in H-Alpha Below: Summer thunderstorms Below: Total solar eclipse taken a few miles north west of the observatory :)
Some QuickTime VR movies, imaged near Mudgee NSW can be found at the links below
(Windows users will need to install an Apple Quicktime player for their browsers to view these)