Breathtaking Sphinx Observatory at Swiss Alps

Breathtaking Sphinx Observatory at Swiss Alps

by Kaushik


The Sphinx observatory is located at Jungfraujoch in Switzerland at an altitude of 3,571 meters. Due to its unique location in an unspoiled high alpine environment and the year-round accessibility via the Jungfrau Railway, combined with the excellent infrastructure, the Sphinx observatory provides unique conditions for successful research in various disciplines such as meteorology, astronomy, glaciology, physiology, radiation, and cosmic rays.

When the Jungfraujoch station opened in 1912 (which is also the highest railway station in all of Europe), Jungfraujoch became the number one place for scientists to conduct research under conditions of high altitude. At first the scientists worked in harsh conditions and lived in temporary shelters. Eventually, the Sphinx observatory was built in 1937 to accommodate eager scientists.

The Sphinx observatory is built on a steep cliff. The mountain top has been tunneled to fit an elevator which ascends to the observatory from the Jungfraujoch train station. The main-part of the Sphinx is used by scientists but for the tourists there is a metal-grate terrace surrounding the building on all sides that provides a stunning 360 degree view of the Great Aletsah Glacier, of the snowcapped Alps, and of the green valley down below. From the metal gratting one can see 11,333 feet of abyss down below.

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The building includes four laboratories, a pavilion for cosmic ray research, a mechanical workshop, a library, a kitchen, a living room, ten bedrooms, a bathroom, and the living quarters of the custodians. The scientific part of the Sphinx observatory includes two large laboratories, a weather observation station, a workshop, two terraces for scientific experiments, an astronomical as well as a meteorological cupola. The astronomical cupola is equipped with a 76cm telescope with Cassegrain and Coudé focus.

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Sphinx Observatory observation deck open to public. Photo credit

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Walking ten minutes through this tunnel gets you to an elevator, at the top of which is the highest point, where the observatory is located. Photo credit

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Sources: 1234


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New main telescope setup and testing.

The new setup is coming along well. This is being set up downstairs in the basement for evaluation and testing. I have transferred the Meade LXD75 SN-10 OTA to the new Skywatcher mount. Software includes C2A for driving the mount, and testing with PHD autoguide continues; and I have yet to get PHD to play nice with all of the COMM ports and ASCOM configuration involved.

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A short history of my adventures in the skies

I have been observing the skies though a telescope off and on since I was a boy in the 1970’s. During all of this time observing in various fields around Lorain County Ohio, I have battled wild pigs, arrogant horses, annoying mosquitoes and ignorant neighbors that are afraid of the dark and worship barn lights. There have also been numerous skunks that have passed right under my seat while I sat quietly observing, as well as the ornery O’possum that growled and chased me up on to the front lid of my car. It is an uncomfortable feeling when you know you are being watched by wild critters: knowing that while you can not see them, they can see you.

I have seen meteorite fireballs that have lit up half of the night sky. I have seen one of the two gigantic central cloud belts of Jupiter disappear. Mars is an interesting spectacle when it is nearest to us; as one can then see the polar caps clearly as well as planet-wide dust storms. The planet Neptune, while a challenge to see through that barlow lens on a small low power telescope, is a beautiful turquoise jewel to behold.

There are many tales of late-night equipment issues that all amateur astronomers have time to time; in which that telescope GoTo mount just will not behave and keep its tracking accuracy. Things have shorted out due to the late-night fog rolling in and soaking all of my equipment – causing an early retirement of the observing session.

One the the weirdest things that has been experienced is from the late 1970’s when I was sitting on my best friends front porch looking at the night sky, and a silent but bright object of a round shape floated across the sky. It was silent, but was glowing and dimming in a sequence as it transverses my field of vision and slowly disappeared over the woods.

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A new Telescope Dolly design.

I had recently asked my brother Doug Johns for some advice on fixing up an old telescope dolly that I had obtained from a senior member of my local astronomy club. Doug is an experienced fabricator, musician, and all around cool guy. Instead of repairing it, he had designed a new dolly that is solid and secure. Here are a couple of pictures of it when he built it.

The design is so very simple and it secures the tripod legs with round metal cups at the base. I will be using this to roll the rig out from the garage. I will move the rig simply by pushing on the tripod legs. The wheels are all solid rubber – not inflated, which will also act as a vibration damper for the tripod. This is made from dense metal which will hold 200lbs is is very sturdy. Great work Doug! See the before-after pics.

Doug is also a professional musician – check him out at

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New mount has arrived

Check back frequently for updates! I have some big changes coming: a new rig, telescope dolly, observatory, variable star observing, and generally more participation and updates for 2019.

I received the new SkyWatcher EQ6r today. I am very impressed so far: it looks like this is the heavy mount I need that will provide the stability for the heavy 10″ OTA. The mount was purchased from High Point Scientific for $1,595.

I was surprised by the power adapter- it is a cigarette lighter type: no AC adapter. I will have to search for a DC-AC converter.

I continue to read the manual and do some initial testing in the basement. Also, my Meade LXD75-sn10 dovetail bar will not fit the mount securely. I have had to order a different dovetail that will fit from ScopeStuff.



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Early 2019 imaging targets

ngc1931NGC1931: Cluster associated with nebulosity. Mag: 11.30. In Auriga.

IC348: Cluster associated with nebulosity. Mag: 7.30. In Preseus

NGC1624: Cluster associated with nebulosity. Mag: 10.40. In Auriga.

ngc890NGC890, NGC925 galaxies in Triangulum


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U.S. Solar eclipse 2017: Ohio view

I recorded the 2017 solar eclipse from my telescope in Elyria, Ohio. Here is the exiting video. The filter is not the best quality – it is mylar that I had obtained from an ebay sale: I bought it from someone over in Israel a few years ago.




NGC 4449 is an irregular galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici. It is located about 12 million light-years away, part of the M94 Group, a galaxy group relatively close to the Local Group.

NGC4449_LIGHT_30s_400iso_+31c_00273stdev_20160625-00h27m14s750ms -1

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My main rig

Just showing off my rig. LXD75-sn10 with Crayford motorized focuser, using the Meade DSi imager as a guide scope (with Orion flip mirror), prime focus w/ Cannon T3 Rebel, ASCOM focuser, dew strip on the lens, all attached to my laptop which is remote accessed from my warm home office via RealVNC.


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Moon and Jupiter

Clear night. Moon and Jupiter on the meridian. For this session, I used APT to capture the images. I usually use two astro-photography applications: BackyardEOS and APT. I use APT when imaging the Moon and bright planets because APT provides short exposures down in the 1/100th range: and these short exposures are needed with these very bright objects. The magnified Lunar image was produced with eyepiece projection: a 9mm eyepiece with Canon T3 Rebel. That with a 10-inch aperture with f/4 would be about 113x magnification.

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