Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Take a trip to the stars at nearby Mt. Palomar Observatory

As you drive up the steep grade to the Mt. Palomar Observatory, try to imagine three semi tractors, one pulling and two pushing, struggling to get a 200-inch mirror up to the waiting observatory. Sounds pretty crazy, but they did it!

Until you walk around the back of the observatory, after your tour, you won’t fully appreciate the size of the mirror you just saw inside the building. There, lying next to the driveway is the concrete model used to test the apparatus before it was installed. All you will be able to say is ‘Wow!’

While inside you will learn how the giant Pyrex mirror was made, then transported from the Corning Glass factory to New York, then Pasadena, then polished for two years before anyone ever looked through it. The entire story is actually a good lesson in patience and persistence. It was first imagined in the early 1900’s, but not put into actual use until decades later.

Looking at the huge, rail-car-like wheels that the entire observatory turns on, seeing the giant pair of doors that opens each clear night and weigh some 20 tons each, trying to figure out how the scientists get to the top of the huge dome, how they sit and look through an eyepiece the size of your typical microscope, and shivering at the thought of them sitting in the freezing cold when the telescope was first used back in the 30’s, will leave you shaking your head in near disbelief.

Because the observatory was built for, and is still used by, scientists you can’t look through the big telescope itself, but it is still an amazing place to visit. If you have a family member who is into astronomy, they will be utterly fascinated. And if they are not, they’ll still enjoy seeing the famous Hale telescope, magnificent observatory, interactive displays, museum, beautifully landscaped grounds, telescopes that move in and out of buildings, and the many fun and interesting items in the gift shop.

When you enter the museum and gift shop building you may wish to take a minute or two to read the display about how the lights from our homes and businesses are, in fact, “blinding” the giant telescope and making it increasingly difficult for the scientists to see into the heavens. Visitors learn that by turning off their unnecessary lights, and pointing them towards the ground around their home and business can really help. It’s probably something most folks never thought about.

In fact, don’t be surprised after visiting Palomar Observatory that you wonder why you never thought about visiting it before. It’s right in our backyard and provides a trip to the stars!

For more information, visit http://www.astro.caltech.edu/palomar. The observatory is open almost every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and admission is free. So are the views!

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