A Visit to Palomar Observatory

Home of the 200 inch Hale telescope

This telescope, when it was installed was a masterpiece of then modern technology. It was famous and even a bit of a rock star! It is still in use today although now there are much bigger telescopes. This one broke ground in technology both in how telescopes were made and in how optics were created.

Up and down the mountain

I was pretty excited to visit this observatory. I have been reading about it all my life. It was, in it’s day, quite a celebrity and the mirror that is in the telescope too was quite famous. I didn’t give thought to the fact that this observatory, like many others, sits on the top of a mountain! Well, I drove up the winding road on the mountain and I didn’t have any car trouble but it did take some time.

And I probably don’t have to say it, but coming down off a mountain also is a challenge to your car.

The picture above with the sign that says “Highway to the Stars” is the beginning point of the trek. Here you are on Route 76 and you aree getting onto a road called South Grade Road. The following picture shows South Grade Road in blue. Down there at the bottom is where I took that picture. So, you drive about 16 miles to the observatory. No sweat right? Wrong! This is a long climb up with a whole lot of switchbacks and sharp curves.

So, take your time and go easy on the car. You don’t want to overheat on this mountain. And drive cautiously because the day I drove there were a lot of motorcyclists on the road. I think it’s become a thing for local motorcyclists. They like the challenge and the fun of driving this road because of how steep it is and how curvy it is.

There are some nice pull over spots so you can let the engine cool or just take in the excellent views.

Let’s take one more look at the map. This time we zoom in closer at the bottom part. Now you can really see how windy this road is. And keep in mind that it is uphill all the way.

Once you arrive at the observatory you are at a parking lot and the visitor center. You park here and it is a short walk to the observatory proper. But you stop in the visitor center for their gift shop and one room display on the telescope and observatory. It’s nice.

The big thing about this whole visit is that there is limited access for the public to the telescope. You have to take a guided tour and there are limited tickets. So, plan ahead, And┬ávisit their website for more information.┬áThis is important! Don’t just show up there!

But, a tour of the telescope observatory is not available to you it is still possible for you to go to the visitors center and walk around the actual observatory dome.

In the next picture a group of tourists is awaiting their tour of inside the dome.

Here is a look inside the visitors center.

The centerpiece of the center is the scale model of the Hale telescope in the observatory.

And the large telescope in the visitor center is an 18″ Schmidt telescope that was in use at Palomar for decades as an asteroid and comet hunter.

And here is the 200 inch telescope from the observation room inside the dome.

Inside that dome where the telescope is the environment and temperature is very carefully controlled. That is why we are behind a glass structure. If you are lucky enough to get a spot on the tour group you will go inside that area for a comprehensive tour.