Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Return to Mt. Wilson

This blog is a follow up to my series I did about Mt. Wilson Observatory about a year ago. At the end of November I went back to Mt. Wilson Observatory, but this time it was by car making it an easier trip on the legs this time around. It was done on the final weekend of the season where the public can still access it. The purpose of this visit was to take the tour of the place with a docent.

We visited the 150-ft solar telescope by going inside the small room they have there for it. This is where they take readings of the sun through the scope. The machine they have moves it back and forth capturing the whole sun.That circle you see goes back and forth. It gets readings of the solar happenings, like black spots.The tour lasts about two hours and the docent covers everything, but the main event is the trip to see the 100-inch Hooker telescope. This is the bottom of the telescope up close. If you look in from one of those bottom holes you can see that green glass that is the base of the big mirror.These are the controls to the finder scope.Looking at the top from below.It was really fun seeing this stuff from the inside rather than behind the window I had to view it from last time. You have to take the tour to access the inside.

There were a couple of things that came up the docent answered that made more sense to me after this tour. The first thing was that the "Hubble Chair" that is on what is called the "Diving Board" was essentially a "prop" that really was never used to view the telescope. The user of the scope would be on that platform sitting down rather than being in a chair. If you go back to the historical picture I showed in that series of blogs you will see Hubble and James Jeans sitting like they would have rather than using a chair.

The second thing mentioned was someone asked where the eyepiece would have been to allow the viewer to see whatever was being viewed. This was something that puzzled me as well. The docent said that early on that might have been the case when the telescope was first being used, but the whole point of it was to take pictures of the night sky. So, it was a case of lining it up with whatever needed to be viewed and then let the picture be taken of the night sky. Most amateur astronomers use various eye pieces for their telescopes, but this was not the case here.

The Return to Mt. Wilson (Youtube Version)

The Return to Mt. Wilson (Vimeo Version)

This blog and the previous blogs on Mt. Wilson Obsevatory can be found by clicking this link.

Finally, to visit the observatory grounds by car you need an Adventurer's Pass to park on the grounds. Also, the Cosmic Cafe is open on weekends during the season the public can access the place. You can buy food here, merchandise, and tour tickets.