Astronomy Corner – World class observatory in the Meadows



For such a small community, Hidden Meadows is blessed to have a large number of very talented residents. From first run novelists to world class artists, there is no telling if the person ahead of you in line at the deli might be an expert in his or her own field with a following that goes well beyond the boundaries of our community. One such person is 20 year Hidden Meadows resident Frank Santore. Frank and his wife Francoise live at the end of Boulder Knolls where he has built a world class observatory using a repurposed dome that he bought from a former Air Force Base in Utah. Weighing over five tons and standing 13 feet tall and ten feet wide, it is like a miniature Mount Palomar Observatory. Transporting the dome over a thousand miles from Utah to Hidden Meadows was quite an adventure, and then mounting it atop a gigantic boulder for added stability was a marvel of engineering. Inside the dome is a 14 inch telescope that Frank uses to study the heavens. Weather permitting he uses the observatory to study celestial objects almost every evening. Using controls that he developed himself, Frank has automated almost all of the steps in acquiring an objective, focusing the telescope, and recording pictures. Frank can preprogram the telescope to study up to 100 objects every evening from dusk to dawn, so that while he is inside having dinner, the observatory comes to life at the appointed time, automatically opens the dome, slews the telescope and the opening in the dome over to the first target and begins taking pictures, as it automatically works its way through the entire list of objects for that evening. When Frank wakes up the next day, he reviews the pictures from the night before, and then shares his findings with scientists at the Lowell Observatory and the University of Northern Arizona. He is currently involved with a worldwide study of locating new asteroids, plotting their orbits, and adding to the worldwide database of known asteroids, so perhaps one day his discoveries and the knowledge gained from them will save the earth from another dinosaur extinction event. Frank has a Facebook page website where you can see some of his dazzling photographs at Boulder Knolls Observatory, and he also has a weather station that publicizes up to the minute readings from his location at the Weather Underground website again under the title Boulder Knolls Observatory. During the recent rain storms it was helpful to have a local site giving the ever increasing rainfall amounts. Frank retired from a career with General Dynamics and BAE Systems seven years ago and has served as the President of the San Diego Astronomy Association.