|100-inch Hooker Telescope|
As an amateur astronomer the visit was as impressive as a visit to any significant landmark or museum of American history. Progressing through the afternoon was akin to progressing through a history of American Astronomy. We walked in the footsteps of Mount Wilson Observatory founder George Ellery Hale, as well as visionaries such as Edwin Hubble, Harlow Shapley, Fritz Zwicky, and some physics genius named Albert Einstein. Much of the site remains as it was during the early to mid 1900's when some of the most significant discoveries in astronomy were made at the the observatory. While improvements have been made related to safety, access and technological advances, the original Snow solar telescope, the 60 and 150 foot solar towers, the 60-inch and the 100-inch Hooker telescope as well as the large trees throughout the observatory grounds bear witness to the people and ideas that have walked the paths over the past century. Briefly, these are some of the highlights of our visit to Mount Wilson:
|150 and 60 foot Solar Towers|
|Snow telescope enclosure|
|150 foot Solar Tower|
Immediately below the 60-inch observatory floor are a darkroom and the original lockers that were provided for observers. These two pictures of the lockers are worth enlarging in order to read the names...
Next up was a quick pass by the CHARA array of Georgia State University that sits atop the observatory grounds. At right is one of the six enclosures that make up the Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy array at Mount Wilson. Together, these 6 one-meter "telescopes are dispersed over the mountain to provide a two-dimensional layout that provides the resolving capability (but not the light collecting ability!) of a single telescope a fifth of a mile in diameter. Light from the individual telescopes is conveyed through vacuum tubes to a central Beam Synthesis Facility in which the six beams are combined together. When the paths of the individual beams are matched to an accuracy of less than one micron, after the light traverses distances of hundreds of meters, the Array then acts like a single coherent telescope for the purposes of achieving exceptionally high angular resolution." (Quoted from this source). Among the many notable achievements of this array was the first direct image of an interacting binary star (Beta Lyrae).
Below are two images of the original, and still functional control panel for the telescope. At left you can see the two periscope like devices that using a series of prisms allowed the observer to see the distant setting circles mounted on the telescope to note it's position. At right you can see a close up of the brass control buttons for the telescope
If you have read this far and are interested in seeing more pictures (such as of the backside of the 100-inch mirror, or the mounting and gear system of the 60-inch) email me! For the rest of you, I did make a one-minute video of the 100-inch Hooker telescope as I stood on the rotating platform (at the base of the dome) above the observatory floor. Click on the settings icon (looks like a gear) to set it to HD and watch it full screen:
Again, a big thank you to Mount Wilson for hosting us, and especially to Nik for taking the time to show us around.