Welcome to the Mount Laguna Observatory

San Diego State University

Virtual Tour

Your tour of Mount Laguna Observatory starts in front of the Awona Harrington Visitors’ Center. The Observatory is operated by San Diego State University as the primary research, teaching, and training facility of its Department of Astronomy. It is operated under Special Use Permit from the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

Mount Laguna Observatory is located forty-five miles east of downtown San Diego on the eastern edge of the Cleveland National Forest at an altitude of 6100 feet (1859 meters). Just to the east is the Anza-Borrego State Park, which is the largest state park in the nation. This remote location, which is free from excessive development because of the nature of National Forest and State Park lands, remains one of the darker major observatory sites in the contintental United States. San Diego County and various municipalities, such as the Cities of San Diego and Oceanside, have ordinances and codes directed towards the wise use of outdoor lighting with the goals of minimizing light pollution and maintaining quality of life for their residences by reducing upward pointing light and direct glare.

Mount Laguna is part of the Southern California Coastal Range (an extension of the Baja California Peninsular Range), and as such benefits from smooth laminar air flow directly off of the Pacific Ocean, which results in steady atmospheric conditions (or “seeing”). Additionally, an average of 6.4 hours of observations can be obtained each night during the year. When combined with its dark skies, Mount Laguna Observatory remains one of the truly excellent astronomical sites remaining in North America.

This virtual tour was originally photographed and formatted by former graduate student John McDonald (MS, 1995).

Continue to the Harrington Visitors’ Center