The Mount Wilson Observatory
This dusk view looking northeast from the Pavilion parking lot area shows a small portion of the 100 inch dome and the three historic solar telescopes atop the frontal ridge on Mount Wilson. From left to right are the 100 inch dome, 150 foot solar tower, 60 foot solar tower and the structure housing a portion of the Snow horizontal solar telescope.
The Historic 6" Dome

The Dome in Winter

This is one of the oldest domes on Mount Wilson, dating back to the 1910's. The split shell dome originally housed a 6" Brashears refractor on a Warner & Swasey equatorial mount that was used to entertain guests at the Observatory during the time of George Ellery Hale. The refractor and mount have been gone from the dome since 1990, carefully packed and stored away for its eventual return to the dome, which is scheduled to occur in 2005. In the background to the right of the 16" dome is the 60 foot solar tower, constructed in 1908 and used by George Ellery Hale to identify magnetic fields in sunspots by observing the Zeeman effect on spectral lines. Operated now by USC, the telescope is used to probe the interior workings of the sun as part of the High Degree Helioseismology Network.

 

 
Here's a photo of me in the 16 inch dome. The Meade 16 LX200 telescope is controlled using a desktop computer running TheSky software.
Photo courtesy of Gale Gant
 
 
Following is a short tour of the 16 inch telescope program
 
     

Tom Meneghini and Darrel Moon - Senior Operators and
Co-leaders of operator training for the 16" program.

Photo courtesy of Darrel Moon

Tom and Darrel have unselfishly volunteered many hours of their time to the Mount Wilson 16" program. They have both contributed significantly to the success of the annual CUREA (Consortium for Undergraduate Research and Education in Astronomy) program held at the Observatory, facilitating the planned nightly spectroscopic and photometric activities. In addition to their involvement in the 16" program, they are both certified operators on the venerable and historic Mount Wilson 60" reflecting telescope. It is volunteers like these that make Mount Wilson such a special place.

 

Tom Mason
16" and 60" certified operator

 
George Cunning and Tom Drouet
16" certified operators
Pictured left to right are Matt Ota, Dave Jurasevich, Darrel Moon, Nora DeMuth and Arbi Karapetien. This photo was taken the night
that Matt, Nora and Arbi passed their testing and became certified operators in the 16" program.

Photo courtesy of Arbi Karapetien

 

Certified 16" operators for whom I do not have photos include Ross Bowman, William Daffer, Gale Gant, Omar Garza, Colin Leis, Bill Ramsey, Perry Rose, Larry Scherr, Diana Shepherd and Mike Simmons



The Historic 10" Cooke Dome

Another venue option at Mount Wilson is the historic 10" Cooke Dome. This dome is located on the steep ridge heading south to the Monastery,
the Observatory's home away from home for visiting astronomers. Adjacent to this dome in 1905, the famous and beloved astronomer Edward
Emerson Barnard, at the invitation of Mount Wilson's founder George Ellery Hale, obtained 40 of the 50 fields for his magnum opus,
"An Atlas of Selected Regions of the Milky Way" published in 1927. Tales are still told on Mount Wilson about the inexhaustible
Barnard, working and singing through the night from this airy perch while imaging the splendors of the Milky Way. Using the 10"
Bruce Telescope, whose primary instrument was a 10" doublet of 50" focal length designed and built by John Brashears, Barnard
called Mount Wilson home for nine months while collecting the images that today comprise his most venerable and highly prized work.
At a somewhat later date (around 1914), a near knock-off of the 10" Bruce Telescope known as the Cooke Telescope was housed in
the dome pictured above.

Late at night when imaging from this site I sometimes feel I can sense Barnard just down the ridge happily tending to his equipment, passing
away the hours while the stars silently drift by in their appointed courses. To be in the place where the giants of Astronomy once held sway
is a truly humbling experience.

 
60" Telescope
The Mount Wilson 60" reflector was commissioned in 1908, surpassing the 40" Yerkes refractor and becoming the largest telescope in the world at that time.
It remained the largest telescope until it was surpassed by the Mount Wilson 100" reflector in 1917. With this telescope the famed astronomer Harlow Shapley firmly
located our place within the Milky Way galaxy, relegating us to a position of relative unimportance part way out on one spiral arm of our island universe. Used primarily nowadays for visual observing in its f/16 Bent Cassegrain configuration, this finely made instrument offers incredible views of the heavens.

I'm lucky to be an operator on the 60" telescope and have the chance to observe with this wonderful machine. Views of the planets, moon, double stars and deep sky objects such as planetary and diffuse nebulae are breathtaking when seen through this telescope. Observing distinct, individual globular clusters in M31 and M33, resolving fine detail in Jupiter's cloud bands, or seeing the ultra-fine structure of planetary nebulae is all possible and relatively easy on nights of good seeing.

Much of the technology in the dome is 1907 vintage, however the control console pictured at left is a 1950's vintage upgrade. It's basically a digital setting circle scheme, with the operator matching RA and Dec coordinates of a known object with the encoder display on the adjacent CRT monitor. Plans are currently underway to fully upgrade this scope with modern drive motors and a computer Go-To control system.

Mount Wilson 60" Reflector
Photo courtesy of Gale Gant