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.
Comet Lemmon (C/2012 F6) captured as an LRGB image
Click here to see a High Resolution version Comet Lemmon
The dome is a Sirius 2.3 metre "home-model" fibreglass dome. It is around 16 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 a Carbon Truss RCOS 14.25" F7.9 Ritchey-Chretien. An Astro-Physics EDFS130 F6 and William Optics FD 80mm are both mounted on the main telescope.
Also used are an AP155 F7 refractor and Coronado SM90 Hydrogen Alpha filter for solar imaging.
The mount is a Paramount ME....note the counterweights!
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:
The Observatory is opposite Heathcote National park. Feathered and furry creatures come and visit. Many are protected species, unfortunately the equipment in the dome is not.
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 at left is typical of the imaging performance the RCOS 14.25" 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 RCOS is fitted with a Telescope Control Centre (TCC) 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 11 megapixel SBIG STL CCD has now been replaced with a 16 Megapixel SBIG STX16803 with 65mm square filters. A smaller 8 megapixel SBIG STT-8300 with adaptive optics is alsoused for high resolution images.
A second Apogee U47 CCD (midband coated) camera is also used. Its quantum efficiency is extremely high, being around 90% or better (93% Peak QE) from blue through to H-Alpha light.
It is 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.
Above: M8 taken from the observatory Below: NGC2070 Above: M83 spiral galaxy in Hydra, 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)