Landolt Telescope - Louisiana State University by Briar Richard

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University students enjoy vistas of the Great Orion Nebula through LSU’s Landolt Telescope atop Nicholson Hall. In the swath of sky above, the lower torso of the Orion constellation is visible, including the three belt stars and the famous nebulosity below them, which plots a point in the Hunter’s scabbard.

The incorporeal figure at right, Dr. Bradley Schaefer, opens the observatory for public viewing every first quarter moon of spring and fall semesters. Between slewing to celestial targets and fielding questions from a curious public, Dr. Schaefer tasks his students with thinking-cap questions for bonus points.

Faint red light illuminates the observatory, while preserving night vision. 10 to 20 second exposures were my “sweet spot” for gathering enough light for capture.

About the observatory…

After nearly 15 years of neglect, a group of students and professional astronomers restored the nigh 80-year-old structure, dedicating it to Professor Arlo U. Landolt for lasting contributions to LSU astronomy and the field of photometry. Landolt devised a process that uses the intrinsic brightness of stable stars to calibrate light-sensing instruments. The methodology is employed worldwide to this day.

The refracting telescope is a fabrication of Alvan Clark & Sons, best known for behemoths like the 24” aperture scope at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona and the 40” at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. Remarkably, the optical system does not degrade, so it was merely cleaned during restoration, not resurfaced.

The Landolt has a comparatively modest 11.5” primary lens, but its prowess in lunar and planetary renderings is unlike any of the sort you’ll experience in south Louisiana. I call it the ‘elegant beastie’, because the classical brass tubing and exquisite optics make for an odd marriage with the creaks and shrieks of the aging scope and dome. When the scope is released from manual control, it tracks in astronomical time (sidereal time), compensating for the Earth’s rotation.

We’re so fortunate to have this historical gem operational!


telescope, louisiana, lsu, louisiana state university, nicholson hall, astronomy, astrophotography, constellations, stars, landolt observatory, baton rouge photographer, denham springs photographer, lafayette photographer, louisiana photographer, briar richard

The observable Universe sprang into existence 13.7 billion years ago, and has evolved to observe itself. In my opinion, there’s no greater event to consider. I enjoy astronomy, photography, and time with my wife and little boy. While capturing and editing photos, I jam to The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Air Supply, LMFAO, The Foo Fighters, REM, Barry Manilow, Dr. Dre, Snoop, Duran Duran, Weezer, The Flaming Lips, U2, Boyz to Men, Pearl Jam, Peter Gabriel, Queen, Color Me Badd, and The Beach Boys.

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  • Bonnie T.  Barry
    Bonnie T. Barryover 3 years ago

    Fascinating information, Briar! And a fascinating photo to go with it! I’m learning all sorts of things; thank you for being a great teacher and a great photographer! I love the way you marry your story with your image and each complements the other. Looking forward to more fascinating lessons from Professor Richard!

  • Awww, thanks Mrs. Bonn. Too kind of you to say. I always think of the wise adage from Carl Sagan, that goes something like, “When you’re in love, you want to tell the world.” That’s what this hobby/science draws out of me. And I continue to learn so much more about it every day.

    – Briar Richard

  • Duncan Waldron
    Duncan Waldronover 3 years ago

    Always nice to see an old scope in use. I had the privilege of using a Thomas Cooke 6-inch photovisual refractor during my years in Edinburgh, at the City Observatory (formerly the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh). Although lacking coated optics, and poorly located in the city centre, it was a delight to use. Another delight was showing visitors sights of the night sky through such ’scopes. I never tire of that.

  • It seems we’re kindred, Duncan. I volunteer at our local observatory and get the ‘warm and fuzzies’ operating our 20" Ritchey and rambling on about the multitudes of fascinating objects in the eyepiece.

    – Briar Richard

  • Navigator
    Navigatorover 3 years ago

    Another lovely mix of reds and purplie-lavenders. Stunning, both for subject matter, as well as for composition and color. And I recall this telescope from my graduate school days at LSU, a great university with many interesting little places to visit like this one! I loved exploring the whole campus in little strolls or bike rides with friends. Great work! And if it’s still there, you should make it out to the frog lab, where they were (at least back then — LONG, LONG ago and FAR, FAR away!) working with TONS of frogs! It was scenic and interesting back then. Maybe all gone now.

  • Thanks! Lots of history on LSU’s campus, and this is easily one of my favorites.

    – Briar Richard

  • Barbara Burkhardt
    Barbara Burkhardtover 3 years ago

    Well, our local store did not have one of these LOL so I had to make do with my D90

    hope that worked!!

  • By the looks of it, you did much more than simply “made do”. It’s a beautiful image you have there!

    I’m importing to Lightroom right now, and if mine are half as good as yours, I’ll be a happy camper!

    – Briar Richard

  • NatureGreeting Cards ©ccwri
    NatureGreeting...over 3 years ago

    So awesome!! I have always dreamed of looking through a telescope as this one, or ANYONE like it FOR THAT FACT!!! MYGOSH space is amazing, to say the least! Brilliant shot Briar!! love the ghostly figure, you are one LUCKY fellow!!! I wanna say ya dog you!! LOL!! But I do not know you Thaaaaat well, evil grins, but in all due respect! ! GREAT SHOT!! Carolyn

  • Thanks, Carolyn! So glad that you’re digging my astro pics. I surely enjoyed taking them!

    – Briar Richard

  • William Bullimore
    William Bullimoreover 3 years ago

    Absolutely amazing. Instant favourite.

  • Thank you, William! I’m very much enjoying your astrophophotos and telescope captures.

    – Briar Richard

  • CRHammond
    CRHammondover 2 years ago

    Is that an F/15?

  • Hey, Chris. Not sure. We’ve never measured the focal length, but the aperture is 11.5 inches. One day, I’ll bring a tape measure to satisfy our collective curiosity. I’ve wanted to know the focal ratio for a few years now.

    – Briar Richard

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