Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Hale Turns 60

Sixty years ago today, June 3, 1948, the 200-inch telescope on Palomar Mountain officially became the Hale Telescope.

The project was announced twenty years earlier. It spanned both the Great Depression and World War II. The effort of building the telescope also outlasted its creator, George Ellery Hale. Hale raised the funds, picked the mountain, and hired the people to create the dome, the mirror and the telescope itself. His health eventually prevented him from overseeing every little detail and he passed away in 1938 - ten years before the completion of the project.

Hale's story is chronicled in a film, Journey to Palomar, which will be shown on PBS on November 10th. Check your local listings for the exact time.

Nearly 1,000 people attended the dedication. This photo, taken from the reviewing stand, looks out into the audience that had been invited for the ceremonies. An article published in the August 1948 issue of the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific described the events that took place.

Dedication does not always mean completion. Work continued after the echo of the speeches had faded from the dome. It wasn't until early 1949 that the telescope had "first light" and November 1949 until regular observing began. Next year we will celebrate the anniversary of the telescope coming into use along with the International Year of Astronomy.

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