The Pomona College 40 inch telescope was designed by Dr. Robert Chambers who was actively involved in planning for a 1-meter class telescope since the early 1960's.The telescope was built at Pomona College and installed on the mountain during the period from 1982-1985. Since then upgrades in the control electronics and motors have been made, and new software for controlling the telescope has been written by Gary Grasdalen.
The telescope was an ambitious project, and was made possible by the vision of Dr. Chambers, and the hard work of many physics department staff members and students. A grant from the NSF ILI program was approved for the Claremont Colleges in 1994, and some additional funds for the optics upgrade were provided by JPL. The grant was authored by Dr. Shane Burns of Harvey Mudd College, Dr. Bryan Penprase, Dr. Alma Zook and Dr. Steve Naftilan. The grant enabled the Claremont Colleges to upgrade the optics of the Pomona College 40 inch telescope by purchasing a new primary and secondary mirror. The optics were ordered by Dr. Bryan Penprase from Rayleigh Optical Company of Tucson, Arizona, headed by Dave Anderson.
The primary mirror was constructed from a 1-meter blank of Corning ULE (Ultralow Expansion) Glass, and the secondary was constructed from Schott Zerodur glass. The final installation of the new optics took place at Table Mountain during the summer of 1996. With the improved optics, the image quality of the 40 inch telescope was found to be superb, and this has made many new astronomical imaging research projects possible.
In the last few years (1998-2000) the telescope was used for precision monitoring of Jupiter's atmosphere, photometric observations of galactic star clusters and extinction from molecular clouds, as well as for research into the variability of quasars. In addition it is used by the Claremont College astronomy courses Physics 172 (senior lab), Astronomy 101, Astronomy 1 and Astronomy 3 classes for both advanced photometric observing and for viewing galaxies. The telescope is outfitted with a Photometrics liquid N2 cooled CCD camera purchased jointly by Harvey Mudd College, JPL, and Pomona College. A polarimeter and filter wheel is nearing completion at Pomona College, funded by a grant from JPL. In addition a near-IR camera is being tested at Harvey Mudd Camera, acquired by an NSF grant to Dr. Alex Rudolph (HMC), Dr. Mary Barsony, Dr. Bryan Penprase, Dr. Steve Naftilan and Dr. Alma Zook. We welcome collaborations with JPL astronomers as we expand the capabilities of this facility; interested parties can contact Dr. Bryan Penprase at Pomona College to schedule telescope time. He can be reached either by email or at the phone number (909) 621-8727. Some of the resulting images taken with this telescope may be found at the Pomona College Astronomy web site.