Out and About with Russel Ray — “The Big Eye”

he "Big Eye."
Palomar Mountain house.

Palomar Mountain house.

The Russel Ray, Property Consultant home inspection this past Thursday was out on Palomar Mountain. It caught me off guard when I scheduled it because I had no clue that there were homes up on Palomar Mountain.

Once I finished the inspection, I headed over to the “Big Eye,” more properly known as Mount Palomar Observatory:

The Big Eye is only 62 miles from where I live yet I had never been there. It’s not a tourist attraction because it is a working observatory.

I have been infatuated with the place since I was a young stamp collector and landed a Palomar Observatory stamp in my collection.

At one point in my early life I even wanted to be a meteorologist, an astronomer, a star gazer. Then I discovered that in order to be a good one, I would probably have to go to four years of college, two years of graduate school, and two more years getting a doctorate.


 "Historic home" at Palomar Mountain.

“Historic home” at Palomar Mountain.

I was pretty sure that when I finished four years of college, I would be finished with school. I was right.

Some interesting things about the big eye, the Palomar Mountain Observatory:

The Palomar Mountain Observatory has several telescopes, the largest of which is the 200-inch Hale Telescope.

Other telescopes include a 60-inch telescope, not named but located in the Oscar G. Meyer Building (Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar Meyer weiner…………….), the 48-inch Samuel Oschin telescope, and a 24-inch telescope completed in 2005.

Inches refers to the size (doesn’t it always?) of the mirror lens that collects light. Corning Glass Works in Corning, New York, manufactured the lens. It was their second attempt.

The first lens was flawed because the glass was so hot that it melted the supporting structure, allowing bricks and steel bolts to float to the surface. The flawed disc is on display at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York.

The dome is 137 feet in diameter, making it the third largest dome in the United States, behind the Superdome and the new San Diego Central Library dome.

The 200-inch telescope is named after George Hale (1868-1938), the driving force behind its construction, and the builder of other major telescopes throughout the United States: a 40-inch telescope at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, still the world’s largest refracting telescope (1897); a 60-inch telescope (1908) and the 100-inch Hooker Telescope (1917) at Mt. Wilson Observatory near Pasadena, California.

Palomar Mountain Observatory stamp.

Palomar Mountain Observatory stamp.

Construction began in 1936 and was completed in 1939. The lens, however, did not arrive until November 1947, having taken almost a decade to build and install. First sky images from the Hale Telescope were taken on January 26, 1949.

The dome rotates to keep the sky in line with the dome opening (seen on the stamp) and can rotate 360° in four minutes.

It was the largest telescope in the world from its completion in 1949 through 1976, the second largest through 1993, and currently the third largest.

The observatory has over 2,000 acres of land owned by the California Institute of Technology, which owns and operates the telescopes.

The original observatory was on 160 acres of land bought by George Hale with a $6 million grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.

Pluto’s previous demotion from planet status, now reversed,  resulted from work done by CalTech astronomers at Palomar Mountain Observatory using the Hale Telescope.

The telescope originally was capable of seeing two billion light years away. Computer and digital imaging programs, such as “adaptive optics,” installed during the past decade allow the Hale Telescope to see 13 billion light years away.


For more information about Ray’s property inspection service and blog, visit Real Estate Solutions by Russel Ray at http://russelray.com/. Or call (619) 341-0173.