Dr. Alex Shlanta Astronomical Observatory

Dr. Alex Shlanta
Dr. Alex Shlanta, developer of the Observatory at the College.

The Dr. Alex Shlanta Astronomical Observatory was dedicated in May 2006 and is named in honor of Dr. Alex Shlanta who's dedication, management and unfailing efforts have brought multiple astronomy domes and telescopes to Cerro Coso, expanding the hands-on experience for numerous students and for community members alike.

Work on the Observatory commenced in 1999 through the inspiration and leadership of Dr. Alex Shlanta, an Adjunct Faculty member at the College. Presently, there are 19 telescopes and 8 pairs of binoculars that are housed in the 4 observing domes and 3 storage sheds within the observatory compound. The observatory has been developed as a hands-on "teaching astronomical observatory" and is used by Astronomy and Physical Science Lab classes at the College. This observatory provides a unique experience for the students at the College as most introductory college astronomy lab classes are taught only using interactive computer systems. The observatory is used as a community asset as well with star parties having been held at the observatory for local youth groups, boy scouts, cub scouts, girl scouts, middle school science students, and 3rd, 5th, and 6th grade students.

Observatory History

Remembering Dr. Alex Shlanta

Observatory Telescopes & Equipment

Cerro Coso's Astronomical Observatory currently features the following telescopes and equipment:

  • Photovoltaic Solar Power System with battery and inverter
  • Coleman power generator backup power system, donated by Joseph Matisohn II
  • 3 Askania 10ft diameter domes obtained from NAWC-WD surplus through an Educational Partnership Agreement
  • PD-10 (10ft diameter) Pro-Dome, donated by Jack Russell
  • 20" diameter Obsession reflection telescope, obtained by an MOU with the China Lake Astronomical Society
  • 12" diameter Meade LX-200 computerized Schmidt Cassegrain telescope, donated by Jack Russell
  • 10" diameter Cave teflection telescope with Tinsley mount, obtained as surplus from NAWC-WD
  • 13" diameter Odyssey I reflecting telescope, donated by Alex Shlanta
  • 12" diameter Orion Dobsonian computerized telescope, purchased by CCCC
  • 8" diameter Celestron Nexstar 8 Schmidt Cassegrain computerized telescope, donated by Bob Huntley
  • 9 medium sized telescopes (6"-8" diameter), three of which are computerized [These are the main telescopes used for student instruction.]
  • 3 smaller telescopes (4"-5" diameter)
  • 8 pairs of large binoculars with tripods (10x50 to 11x80 in size)
  • Coronado Solar Max 40 telescope to observe the Sun in H-alpha light, donated by Dr. John Stenger-Smith
  • 3 8'x8' storage sheds originally built by ROP construction at Burroughs High School (these sheds have been insulated, ventilated, and upgraded for optical storage)

The Observatory Compound

The Observatory compound is located east of the Cerro Coso College parking lot and south of the Solar Field. The compound features 4 domes, 3 sheds, solar collectors, and the dedication plaque, as well as ample cement pads for observatory equipment.

Images from Space

With the 12-inch Schmidt-Casselgrain telescope, a generous gift from an anonymous donor, astrophotography can be taken, allowing students to see various galaxies and other astral bodies in stunning color and detail. Photos in this section are by Cerro Coso student Chris Watson.

Milky Way and Dome by Cerro Coso student Chris Watson
This photo shows the college's 14 inch Meade LX200 telescope patiently waiting to reveal the majesty of the heavens while sitting in front of our galaxy The Milky Way.
Orion Nebula by Cerro Coso student Chris Watson
This photo caught an infrequently occurring conjuncture between the Moon and Venus; less than 5 degrees of separation.
Mars by Cerro Coso student Chris Watson
In this photo of Mars you can see the polar ice caps in a storm rolling in on the right side of the planet.
Orion Nebula by Cerro Coso student Chris Watson
The Orion Nebula located in the constellation Orion. This is an intense area of interstellar medium creating countless new stars.
Saturn by Cerro Coso student Chris Watson
This photo of Saturn was taken by combining 5 minutes of video frames into a single image. This process allows you capture the greater details of the ring and the planet itself.

Help Support the Observatory

We appreciate all types of contributions to the observatory. We'd like to take a moment to thank all who have supported us through time, efforts, and donations of equipments and funds. If you are interested in donating equipment to the observatory, please contact John Stenger-Smith. If you would like to contribute financially to the ongoing support of the observatory, you can make a tax deductible donation by sending your check to:

Cerro Coso Community College Foundation
3000 College Heights Blvd.
Ridgecrest, CA 93555

Please makes checks out to the CCCC Foundation.
Note "Astronomical Observatory" on the memo line.

Special Thanks

Special thanks go to the members of the China Lake Astronomical Society who donate their time for both astronomy classes and star parties to assist with the setup and demonstrations at the observatory.