Towercam at the Mount Wilson Observatory is located in the San Gabriel Mountains about 9 miles
NE from the city of Pasadena, California, which is on the northern outskirts of Los Angeles. The
exact latitude and longitude is N34° 13' 28" and W118° 03' 31".
The Towercam Unit is mounted on the east side of the UCLA 150-Foot Solar Tower, at Mount Wilson
Observatory. The base of this telescope is at an elevation of 5672 feet above mean sea level,
and the towercam itself is mounted on a rail 150 feet above that. Typically, the towercam points
towards the 100-inch telescope dome at an azimuth of 45 degrees east of true north.
It consists of a Kodak DC120 Zoom Digital Camera placed inside a Pelco environmentally controlled
camera enclosure. This enclosure has a small fan and heater inside it to keep the front window
free of fog.
The camera is controlled by Erdman Video System’s VM95 software running on a Pentium 500
Mhz computer under Windows98. The computer communicates with the camera via RS-232. Images are
scheduled to be taken every four minutes and are automatically uploaded to the website.
Visitors to the Angeles National Forest find it handy to consult the website to see what kind
of weather to expect.
Towercam movement is controlled by using a standard TV antenna rotator. The rotation is in the
horizontal plane only, and is manually controlled by the observer on duty. The field of view covers
approximately 260 degrees ranging from Mt. Pacifico in the north to just past Mt. Harvard in the
south. The following thirteen images were taken between August 1999 and September 2002 and represent
some of the “Best Of” portfolio, more of which can be seen on the Internet. Thanks
go to Larry Webster and the crew of the UCLA Astronomy Department at Mount Wilson Observatory
for use of the images and information. Please visit the website to learn more about the project
and to check on the area’s weather “twenty-four-seven.”