The Frances E. Barnard Memorial Observatory
Construction of the two-story Frances Barnard Memorial Observatory, which was supervised by James W. Riggs Jr., former chair of the physics department, and with the help of several physics students, began in April 1969 and was completed in July of that same year.
It was dedicated on February 28, 1971 at the Second Annual Physics Symposium. The observatory was named in memory of Frances E. Barnard, mother of Dr. Marion C. Barnard, because of her love of the stars. Dr. Barnard, an M.D. in Bakersfield and an alumnus of La Sierra College, donated two telescopes, a 12-inch and a 16-inch reflector (at the time valued at $4,000), and $1,000 for the construction of the facility.
The 16-inch classic Cassegrain reflector telescope is mounted in a fork mount, which is attached to a concrete pier and uses a clock-drive with gears that were manufactured by Edward R. Byers Co., a well-known manufacturer of top-quality drive systems.
After falling into disuse for a number of years, the observatory was refurbished by a small group of dedicated individuals in 1995. This group included Reggie Ackerman, campus electrician and his wife Crystal, an award-winning telescope maker, Dennis Brown, the safety coordinator, as well as Al Smith, Richard Bobst, and Ivan Rouse of the Physics Department. It received fresh paint, a new electrical system, new carpeting and ceiling, improved outside lighting and landscaping, and a new drinking fountain was added. In addition, the telescope’s mirrors were re-silvered and realigned, and the clock drive was refurbished.
Currently, the Observatory is open to the public on the first Friday night of every month, and for occasional special events. Admission is always free, though donations are welcome. Visitors can view the evening sky through the main telescope or any of the other private telescopes set up outside the observatory. Volunteers are available to find and discuss objects of interest and answer questions. In addition, there is usually a brief presentation on the first Friday night, to give additional insight about a particular region of the viewable night sky.