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Mount Wilson Observatory: still studying the heavens

Chronicle of Higher Education
15 July 2011

Mount Wilson Observatory (NASA photo)
Mount Wilson Observatory complex (NASA photo)

At the 5,715-foot summit of Mount Wilson in California, the historical observatory complex founded by George Ellery Hale in 1904 is still doing science, despite changing technology and the influence of air and light pollution from nearby Los Angeles.

The 100-inch reflecting telescope, which made Mount Wilson famous, claimed the "world's largest" title from its 60-inch sister in 1917 and held the No. 1 position for the next 31 years, during which Edwin Hubble used it to confirm that the universe was continuing to expand.

Light pollution now limits the observatory's usefulness for deep-space researchers, but all of its instruments are still in service. The 60-foot-tall solar telescope is operated by University of Southern California researchers studying movement within the Sun's surface, or helioseismology, while the 150-foot-tall solar tower is run by the University of California at Los Angeles and is used for studies of the Sun's magnetic properties.

Full story from the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required)
Mount Wilson photo gallery
(Chronicle of Higher Education)
Mount Wilson Observatory website