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Palomar Observatory

is located atop Palomar Mountain, about 40 miles northeast of San Diego, at an elevation of 5,660 feet above sea level

Palomar Observatory

Construction of the observatory was first proposed by astronomer George Ellery Hale in 1928, who had previously overseen the construction and operation of the Mount Wilson Observatory, located about 10 miles northeast of Pasadena, California. Hale proposed the building of a new observatory because the area around Mount Wilson was becoming increasingly populated, and the background light was becoming an ever worsening problem. Palomar Mountain was chosen because at the time it was located far enough from any population center that "light pollution" would not be an issue. Construction of the observatory was made possible by a grant from the International Education Board (one of the Rockefeller Foundations). Construction of the observatory began in the mid-1930's, and was completed on November 18, 1947.

The observatory's main instrument is the 200-inch Hale Telescope. It was first tested in 1947, dedicated on June 3, 1948, and began operating regularly in 1949. Capable of collecting one million times more light than the human eye, the telescope can photograph objects several billion light-years away.

Hale Telescope mirror being crated for shipment Hale Telescope as seen from the air

Palomar's other optical instruments include: the 48-inch Samuel Oschin Telescope, which can photograph 300 times more sky than the Hale Telescope (but the Hale can photograph in greater detail); the 18-inch Schmidt Telescope; and a general-purpose 60-inch reflecting telescope.

Palomar Observatory is owned and operated by the California Institute of Technology. Its official website is

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This page was last updated on 06/29/2016.

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