Saturday, September 5, 2015

Inside the Solar Telescope

Through a dark door beneath a gleaming tower, we enter the small building that houses Mount Wilson Obervatory's 150-Foot Solar Telescope.

Fluorescent lights shine on interesting photos and diagrams that line the walls. This bust of George Ellery Hale looks like the one I photographed at Caltech in 2009, but I learned that it's not the same. This one was rejected by the Hale family. The accepted bust is at Caltech somewhere, though it's likely been moved since I took its picture.

At first you think, "Oh. Well, it's an old room. With old computers in it. And...wait, what are all these dials and knobs and...?"

Then someone turns off the lights.

You know you can't look directly at the sun, but there it is before you on the table, with today's spots.

Every day the sun's spots are mapped, and the information is shared for anyone to see. This research is used worldwide.

Then more magic—I mean, science. Before our eyes, on the table, sunset.

Shadows float across the circle of light, first of the Mt. Wilson radio towers, then of the western mountain range itself.

Then the gloaming fades into night.

A room full of enchanted enthusiasts lets out a cheer. It's easy, then, to understand why our ancient kin worshipped and feared the sun.

17 comments:

William Kendall said...

That's the sort of thing that would leave me fascinated endlessly! Splendid shots!

John Sandel said...

I was there! That's what it was really like.

Petrea Burchard said...

I'll bet you'd love it, William.

Even the cheering, J.

altadenahiker said...

Is this area open to the public from time to time?

Petrea Burchard said...

Hiker, you can get guided tours and "special" tours. Check the links here and see what you like.
I really recommend it. Mt. Wilson is a treasure.
http://www.mtwilson.edu/

Pasadena Adjacent said...

It's just my opinion, but I think the Hale family chose the wrong version of Hale. And he's now located by the ancient oak tree.

Ms M said...

Wonderful and fascinating! Great photos, too, in both of these posts!
Thanks for "taking us along".

Petrea Burchard said...

PA, I know where that is. There's another interesting sculpture there, a deco sort of thing. I like it a lot. http://pasadenadailyphoto.blogspot.com/2009/03/under-engelmann-oak.html

Thank you, Ms. M!

Linda said...

Fascinating; great captures!

Shell Sherree said...

You make me want to visit the local planetarium again, Petrea ...

beckynot said...

It looks like magic, like something from your Merlin settings.

Petrea Burchard said...

Thank you, LInda!

Go, Shell. Look through a telescope. We're discovering planets all over the place, and we still have yet to learn so much about our own sun. It's mind-boggling!

I know, beckynot! Arthur C. Clarke said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Bellis said...

This is wonderful. I've never been inside the solar telescope, and have never seen the sunset the way you have. What magic indeed! Isn't it amazing that the old Bakelite control boards still use DC current? No matter which bust of Hale is best, he was a good-looking man who charmed all the ladiea, and I wish I could have met him.

llandudnopictures said...

Fascinating stuff, and images!

Petrea Burchard said...

Thank you! And yes, Hale would have been an interesting man to know.

LOLfromPasa said...

Somehow I missed this post of yours. So glad to see it now. It is a wonderful place to visit. Wonderful images and an interesting blog post.

Petrea Burchard said...

For your next visit, Lauren!