Sunday, August 28, 2011

Palomar Observatory...1940 footage of construction

Well, here are reels #2 and #3 of some historical footage of the construction of the Palomar Observatory. Unfortunately reel #1 has not been digitized as this time.

The Online Archive of California is an initiative of the California Digital Library.

Historical Note:

Palomar Observatory is located in San Diego County, California, 90 miles (140 km) southeast of Pasadena's Mount Wilson Observatory, in the Palomar Mountain Range. At approximately 5,570 feet (1,700 m) elevation, it is owned and operated by the California Institute of Technology. Research time is granted to Caltech's faculty and staff members and to research partners, which include the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Cornell University. The 200-inch Hale reflecting telescope is the principal instrument at the Palomar Observatory. It was built by Caltech with a 6-million dollar grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. The historic 200-inch mirror was manufactured using a Pyrex blank by Corning Glass Works, in Corning, New York, and was shipped by rail to Pasadena for grinding and polishing. It was the vision and effort of the astronomer George Ellery Hale that caused the project to be funded and to go forward. The building of the 200-inch telescope was easily the most famous scientific undertaking of the 1930s. From the beginning, everyone associated with the project realized that the work must be done right or not at all. Every task associated with the Palomar project required a considerable extension of the technology of the day. In an article in the April 1928 issue of Harper's Magazine, George Hale set forth the case for the building of what was to become the 200-inch Palomar reflector. The purpose of this article was to inform the American public about his proposal to construct the largest telescope in the world to answer questions relating to the fundamental nature of the universe. Hale hoped that the American people would understand and support his project. George Ellery Hale died in 1938 and did not live to see the completion of his last and biggest telescope. In June 1948 the 200-inch reflector was dedicated to his memory. The telescope (the largest in the world at that time) saw first light on January 26, 1949, targeting NGC 2261. Russell W. Porter was primarily responsible for the striking Art Deco architecture of the Observatory's buildings, most notably the dome of the 200-inch Hale telescope. Porter was also responsible for much of the technical design of the telescope, producing a series of remarkable cross-section engineering drawings that are considered among the finest examples of such work. Porter worked on the designs in collaboration with many engineers and Caltech committee members. The iconic, gleaming white building on Palomar Mountain that houses the 200-inch Hale telescope is considered by many to be "The Cathedral of Astronomy."

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