News prior to April 2010

April 8, 2010 - Currently the observatory is closed due to the power outage caused by the Station Fire. The estimate given by the Southern California Edison Company is for power to be restored by June 1, 2010. When more information becomes available, it will be posted on this page.


Effective October 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010
Order No. 01-09-08
(current as of: Mar 18, 2010)

Pursuant to 36 CFR261.50(a) and (b): Going into, or being upon any National Forest land, road or trail within the Station Fire Recovery Area, which includes Stony Ridge Observatory, is prohibited. A Special Access Permit from the Forest Service is required for any SRO member to be within the Station Fire Recovery Area.

Check here to see if any Termination of Order has been issued. Some areas are now open (see note May 26 above.)

March 26, 2010 - Caltrans has issued a continuing Road Closure Notice for Angeles Crest Highway (SR2), from La Canada-Flintridge to Mount Wilson Road (Red Box), and will remain closed to the public due to severe damage resulting from heavy rains.

This section of highway is expected to reopen by mid-Summer.

As repair work continues on the highway at lower elevations, the highway is open at higher elevations from Mount Wilson Road to Highway 39 (Islip Saddle).


August 26, 2009 - The Station Fire breaks out near a U.S. Forest Service fire station off of the Angeles Crest Highway above La Cañada-Flintridge, CA.

August 23, 2009 - A second Engineering CCD camera test of the new drive system began tonight with the FOFU project members attending.

July 26, 2009 - Engineering tests on the new drive system have begun.

July 11, 2009 - Training session 7:30 pm.

June 29, 2009 - A group from California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) representing the Science Visualization Project visited SRO. Photos from that visit are available on the Science Visualization Project website.

April 21 , 2009 - Training session.

Spring, 2009 - Training starts for ALL Stony Ridge members who wish to use the telescope and its new drive system.

---> News Items prior to 2009.

May 10, 2004 - One day after it's closest approach to Earth, comet C/2001 Q4 NEAT was shown to have much activity in it's coma. A number of tail and shell features are apparent.

March 21, 2004 - The FOFU group has made their first asteroid discovery from Stony Ridge, a 19th magnitude main-belt object, while making observations of Near-Earth objects.

June 1 , 2003 - Pam Sable, Dave Hadlen and Steve Brewster exercised the new camera mount built by Tim Cann. The mount is comprised of old and new Stony Ridge equipment. Click on this image of M101, a.k.a. Arp 26 to see it full size.

June 1 , 2003 -Members of SRO's asteroid project (FOFU) utilized the new Stony Ridge camera and computer equipment acquired through generous grants from Dr. Eleanor F. Helin and World Space Foundation to image the faintest targets yet achieved at the observatory.

On this night, of the 20 asteroids observed:

2 were fainter than visual magnitude 21, about one million times fainter than can be detected by human eyes without help from telescope and camera.

2 were confirming observations of new discoveries from NEAT, NASA/JPL's Near Earth Asteroid Tracking program.

3 are called Virtual Impactors (VI), asteroids that show a very small chance of impacting Earth in the future using current observations. Usually these objects are removed from the VI list after more observations are made.

2 of these objects have now been removed from the VI list.

1 object, 2003 BK47, still remains on the VI list (as of 2003-02-13), with a 1 in 1.4 million chance of impacting the Earth within the time period between 2020 and 2102. As of 2003-02-13 the observations from Stony Ridge are the last observations made of this object.

1 object that we call SRO 0303 is a newly discovered asteroid! However, since we managed only to observe the object on this one night, it will probably be lost, at least for now. FOFU's observations of SRO 0303 get thrown onto a heap of asteroid observations at the Havard-Smithsonian Minor Planet Center (MPC) known as "one night stands" that await further confirming observations. One criteria for receiving discovery credit for an asteroid observation is that the object be observed over several days. Someday, somewhere, someone may observe this object again and report its position to the MPC and perhaps those observations can be linked to ours. During our asteroid observations, we happened to acquire images of a barred-spiral galaxy called NGC 3887 that one can view on our Deep Sky page. Considering the image was exposed for only 9 minutes, it shows considerable detail. Seeing conditions were very good, showing faint stars at 2.5 arc-second resolution.

2002/12/08 -- FOFU observations of 2 objects, both Virtual Impactors that were soon removed from the VI list. Both were observed at fainter than 19th magnitude with 30-second exposures. We also made a "pretty picture" of the Orion Nebula illustrating the wide dynamic range of the capable AP8p camera.

2002/11/24 --
First FOFU observations since September - Observations were made of only 1 object, an important one though. These observations of 2002 VU94 allowed this object to be excluded from the Virtual Impactor list. This object was the first asteroid imaged with our new camera system.

2002/10/08 -- We have received our new Apogee AP8p camera and photometric filters as a result of the generous donation from Dr. Eleanor F. Helin. Engineering and testing on the new equipment now begins.

2002/09/08 -- FOFU observations were made through smoke and falling ash from the fire to the east. The fire closed the Angeles National Forest for two months. No further observations could be made after this run until November (see story). Despite this regrettable event, we had a very productive night making dozens of observations of six objects, 3 Amor type asteroids, 1 Mars-approaching asteroid, 1 main-belt asteroid and 1 unusual Damocloid type object.

2002/09/01 -- FOFU observations were canceled due to a wild fire in the San Gabriel River Canyon to the east of the observatory. The fire closed the road to Stony Ridge.

2002/08/12 -- SRO has received a very generous donation from Dr. Eleanor F. Helin to fund the purchase of a large-chip, back-illuminated CCD camera with photometric filters. The camera will be used by FOFU to enable follow-up and confirmation of small bodied solar system objects fainter than magnitude 20 V. The wider field of view of such a camera will also help ensure detection of newly discovered objects with higher ephemeris uncertainties.

2002/08/01 -- Tim Cann brought an SBIG ST1001E camera to the observatory to evaluate the flatness of the focal plane of the 0.76-m telescope in regards to utilizing a camera with a larger sensor area. The results were quite good with images of M-27 and M-14. The image taken of M-14 is the best image of this object that I've ever seen.

2002/07/24 -- The Planetary Society announced its 2002 recipients for the Eugene Shoemaker NEA Studies Grant. Stony Ridge's proposal was not selected. Our proposal was strong and all the folks that were involved deserve our praise. The members of the group included John Rogers, Steve Brewster, Sara Martin, Pam Sable, Karen Davis, and Dave Hadlen. Information about the wining proposals are on the Planetary Society's web site.

2002/05/18 -- From NPR News, it's All Things Considered. Travel to the top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii to visit with astronomer Dave Tholen as he describes his work tracking near-Earth asteroids. The type of work Dr. Tholen describes is exactly what SRO's Faint Object Follow Up (FOFU) is involved with, following faint objects that may pose a threat to Earth in the future. (The link above will download a Real Audio interview from

2002/05/15 -- Two potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) were imaged at Stony Ridge and valuable astrometry was provided to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge. One object, designated 2002 OG5, was added to the list of "Virtual Impactors" (VI) -- objects whose observations produce virtual Earth-impact orbital solutions that fit the current observations. Generally these objects get bumped off the VI list when follow up observations are reported. Soon after our observations were reported, OG5's VI status was, indeed, put to rest.

The other PHA observations were made of 2002 JZ8. This image (right) is a composite of three images stacked together and aligned on the asteroid. This gives the appearance that the asteroid is still, and the stars are moving, the opposite of the truth. In this way, we are able to see the asteroid 3 times brighter than it really is, compared to the stars.

Update on
2002 GZ8: (see 2002/04/14): According to the NEODyS group in Italy, all virtual impact trajectories for GZ8 have been resolved by follow up observations from Stony Ridge Observatory and 11 other observatories

Update on 2001 SB170 (see 2001/09/23 and 2002/02/21 below): As reported by NEODyS, this stadium sized boulder was indeed a difficult object to observe. Sufficient follow up observations to prevent it from being lost were not successful. By the time SB170 encounters Earth again and becomes bright enough to be detected, the high uncertainty of its position means that it will have to be rediscovered anew. Observations of SB170 from Stony Ridge Observatory were the only observations made by any amateur astronomers worldwide. SB170 was followed by professionals at LINEAR, Klet, Ondrejov, National Research Council of Canada and LPL/Spacewatch II. It was last detected on October 13, 2001 by Spacewatch II in Arizona.

2002/04/14 -- This image was taken during the Faint Object Follow Up program at Stony Ridge Observatory to confirm a newly discovered fast-moving object (FMO) now designated as 2002 GZ8. Details of the discovery and confirming observations were published on MPEC 2002-G69. Its very faint trail is indicated by tick marks on the image.

GZ8 was discovered at MIT's Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) telescope in New Mexico on April 12th and confirmed at Powell Observatory on April 13, and Stony Ridge Observatory on April 14. Later observations were submitted from the Desert Moon Observatory in New Mexico and by Stephen Laurie of Church Stretton in the U.K. With these observations an orbit was determined by the Minor Planet Center indicating the object to be a potentially hazardous Earth-crossing variety. Using the same data, JPL/SENTRY and NEODyS determined that there were some very small but non-zero chances of GZ8 impacting on Earth in the future. Impact alerts such as these are usually discounted after more observations are received over time and more accurate orbital elements are determined that eliminate the impact solutions.

An unknown object that was moving MUCH faster than GZ8 is marked with an arrow in the picture above. During the 120 seconds it took to make the image, GZ8's image trailed about 5 arc-seconds, while the fast moving object (FMO) trailed at least 90 arc-seconds before it left the field of view (if going to the left), or before the camera shutter closed (if heading to the right). Because both ends of the trail did not show in the image, it was impossible to determine an essential parameter for follow up observations, the speed of the object's travel. This is one discovery that got away! It appears to be a real object, but the answer to whether or not it is artificial (a satellite or orbital debris) or natural (a very near-Earth asteroid) remains lost forever.

We successfully confirmed another asteroid discovery on this night. 2002 GM9 is an Amor (Mars crossing) type discovered by NEAT on April 12. This object represents one of the faintest confirmations we've made at Stony Ridge Observatory. It was observed at red magnitude 20.3 (compared to R=18.6 for GZ8 above!). Discovery and confirmation observations were reported on MPEC 2002-H02.

2002/04/12 -- Stony Ridge Observatory was host to about 20 students from University of La Verne (CA). Students and visitors got their first glimpses of Jupiter's Red Spot, and its moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, an open star cluster called M-67, and a planetary nebula named NGC 2438, the last gasp of a dying star.

2002/02/21 -- The faint virtual impactor 2001 SB170 was observed at SRO on one night last September (see 2001/09/23 below). Because of its faintness, this object has proven to be a difficult one to follow even with large professional telescopes. This is a good example of why it is so important to get quality observations of faint asteroids soon after their discovery.

As noted from the Spaceguard Monthly Monitor - December 2001:


"The case of 2001 SB170 (H = 22.9) is not completely solved yet, despite the observations made by the Spacewatch-II program when the object was around magnitude 23. Further observations, taken on October 21 at the European Southern Observatory, need to be analyzed. With the data available so far all the collision solutions but one were removed. Whether or not more data from ESO becomes available in the near future, this has been one of the most difficult objects to follow given the circumstances of the apparition and the information available (poor initial magnitudes). "

For those of you with curiousity, the "virtual impact" status/date to be resolved in the question above is March, 2078. Details can be read on the Spaceguard site.

2002/02/03 -- Observations of SN 2002ap from SRO were made and magnitudes reported to AAVSO.

2002/02/02 -- An example of how seeing conditions at SRO affect image quality is now on line.

2002/01/30 -- Unusual supernova discovery in M74, SRO begins participation in an international effort to provide photometric data. Breaking news from S. Kulkarni and E. Berger from Caltech... and more info and images from Japan.

2001/12/09 -- FOFU observed a number of interesting asteroids, including the fast-moving object (FMO) 1998 WT24. The image to the right is a composite of four images of WT24 showing its path among the stars. (see Asteroid Observations.)

2001/10/27-28 -- After 20 years we finally applied a new paint job to the dome - all the way to the top. Here is a short photo essay of the event.

2001/09/23 -- 2001 SB170
The FOFU group has successfully made confirming observations of an Apollo type (Earth crossing) asteroid. Details may be viewed from the Asteroid page for the object designated as 2001 SB170.

The image is a composite of two 2-minute exposures showing the trail of the very faint asteroid which was moving across the sky at 2.5 degrees per day. This interesting object warrants further observations and FOFU will continue observations until it fades below the detection limit of the 30-inch telescope.

2001/08/19 -- Some recent images of Uranus, M-16 and M-71 have been added to the Image Gallery.

2001/08/01 -- A photograph taken of the faint planetary nebula, Abell 12, taken by Mike O'Neal in 1986 has been added to the image gallery. This might make a challenging CCD target this winter.

2001/07/21-22 -- Four targets were imaged for FOFU, one of which, 2001 OE13 turned out to be a Main-belt asteroid. We also performed follow up observations on the Apollo-type object designated 2001 ND13 recently discovered by NEAT. An oddball as far as asteroids go, 2001 OK17 is a Mars-approaching asteroid with unusually high eccentricity and inclination. The orbit animation shows that OK17 can make close approaches to Jupiter.

More images of Comet 2001 A2 LINEAR were also taken.

2001/07/14-15 -- Another all-nighter at SRO for the Faint Object Follow Up project produced published astrometric observations of the newly discovered Apollo-type (Earth crossing) asteroid 2001 NH6. These observations were published by the Minor Planet Center at Harvard on MPEC 2001-N35.

A "discovery" of a high proper motion star was made while taking images of Comet 2001 A2 LINEAR on the same night.

2001/06/23-24 -- An all-night FOFU effort successfully tracked the Palomar/NEAT object designated 2001 MS3. All astrometric measures of Near-Earth Objects (NEO) from Stony Ridge Observatory are published on the NEO Dys site.
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