Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Carnegie Observatories, I

Here's a familiar face.

Everybody knows Albert Einstein spent a good deal of time in Pasadena in the 1930's, lecturing at Caltech, visiting JPL and Mount Wilson, and generally being a science ambassador around Los Angeles.

Here's a center of astronomy that Einstein visited but many Pasadenans don't know about: the Carnegie Observatories. I don't think there are any telescopes in the building but even if there are, in the middle of a residential neighborhood on a residential street, most of the science here is being done on computers and in brains. A huge part of their work, however, comes from Carnegie Observatories' telescopes at Las Campanas in Chile.

Lovely little library, isn't it?

That's George Ellery Hale in the painted portrait. Hale was the idea man behind so much of what are now historical observatories, including Mount Wilson Observatory. He was even instrumental in the design of Pasadena's beautiful City Hall Plaza, where one of the buildings is named for him.

In the photograph you see, among others, Edwin Hubble (the tall guy, second from left). Hubble is most known for discovering and proving the expansion of the universe. He also figured out that a lot of what had been thought to be nebulae were, in fact, galaxies. Imagine how all those galaxies boggled minds when they hadn't been considered before.

I think you can pick out Professor Einstein in the picture.

J and I were invited to visit the Observatories by Dr. Cindy Hunt, a Caltech PhD and head of Carnegie's Social Media efforts. In the next couple of posts, Dr. Hunt's going to lead us to some places the public never sees.

We'll visit deep space via the deep, dark basement of the Carnegie Observatories. Stay with us.


In the mean time, mark your calendar for Sunday, October 18th from 2-5pm for the Carnegie Observatories open house. Click on the link and give them an RSVP, s'il vous plait.

18 comments:

William Kendall said...

A long way away from me, but that's the sort of open house I'd enjoy!

Petrea Burchard said...

Me too, William!

Bellis said...

Cindy was very smart to realize what a great photographer and ambassador for Pasadena history you are.
Your photos of the library are lovely (I know you swoon when you're in old libraries). Was the famous photo of Einstein writing on a chalkboard taken in there? When was the beautiful Carnegie building on Santa Barbara Street built? I'm wondering if it came before Caltech's campus (by Bertram Goodhue, another great architect chosen by Hale)?. I'm deeply envious that you're being shown Carnegie's secret underbelly soon. Perhaps there's dark matter and dark energy down there?

Bellis said...

Looking at the photo of Einstein et al reminds me that Hubble liked to act like an English gentleman, with faux accent, pipe and all.

Eric Baker said...

Having grown up in a relatively rural area at the time and then later in life moving to an urban setting I really can relate to light pollution and the loss of a sparkling night sky. I always make sure to appreciate it when I get the chance.

Oh, and I do love the little Einstein doll.

Petrea Burchard said...

Here's a big, fat link to pictures of Einstein writing on a chalkboard. In the one where there are books, I suppose it's possible it was taken at the Carnegie Observatories' library. The others, I would say no.
https://www.google.com/search?q=einstein+writes+on+chalkboard&espv=2&biw=1536&bih=723&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0CB8QsARqFQoTCMigqJPq-8cCFQuegAodpW4Aog#imgrc=L4D9wInB1j6MvM%3A

I don't know when the Hunt building was built, Bellis. Hopefully Cindy Hunt (any relation?) will check in and let us know.

As far as dark matter and dark energy, that basement is full of it.

Cindy also sent me this wonderful video. Dr. Hubble comes in the first 10 minutes, pipe and all. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4miVqgNSRVY

Eric, light pollution is one reason Mt. Wilson became less cutting edge, although it's still used.

TheChieftess said...

I RSVP'd!!! Should be interesting!!!

Petrea Burchard said...

I think you'll love it. Take your grandkids and your camera!

Cynthia Hunt said...

Hey all! The most famous pic of Einstein writing on the chalkboard ("R_ik=0") is definitely taken in the Observatories' library. Here is a somewhat unusual angle of the picture:
http://hdl.huntington.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15150coll2/id/803/rec/39


(The Huntington Library houses the historical records for the Carnegie Observatories, and there are some real gems in the photograph collection.)


The Hunt building on Santa Barbara street was built in 1912. George Ellery Hale originally came out to Pasadena to build the Snow solar telescope on Mount Wilson in 1904 with a grant from the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Originally this new Carnegie outpost was called the "Hale Solar Observatories" with the telescopes, shop, and residences on Mount Wilson and the main offices, optical shop and machine shop on Santa Barbara Street. Hale was elected to the Throop (now Caltech) board of trustees in 1907. You can make the argument that Caltech and the Huntington library would not exist as we know them today without the Carnegie Institution coming before them.

Petrea Burchard said...

Thank you for that link! You may not believe this, but I have never seen that photo. Definitely taken in the Carnegie Observatories' library.

And thanks for adding all the info. Feel free to add anything you like Cindy!

llandudnopictures said...

Another fascinating collection of images, I especially like the photo of the photo... great that's signed by them all too.

Petrea Burchard said...

It was exciting to stand where Einstein had stood. It didn't make me feel any smarter. Maybe I should have stood in Hubble's spot!

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I'm in love with Beanie Baby Einstein.

Thanks for the heads up - I've made reservation for two (though I haven't heard back from them) hmmm. Hope I'm in.

Ms M said...

Fascinating! Thank you! Looking forward to the next installment....

Petrea Burchard said...

PA, I think they're just looking to have an estimate, so I'm sure you're in.

It'll be fun, Ms M!

Shell Sherree said...

Like PA, I'm smitten with the weensy Albert Einstein. Very cute ! And that's an amazing library ~ I know several people who would happily live in that room.

Petrea Burchard said...

I'm one of them, Shell.

John Sandel said...

Rumor has it Einstein was a crochet-y old guy..