Monday, January 26, 2009

60 Years Ago Today - First Light for the Hale

60 years ago today Edwin Hubble took the first astrophotos from Palomar's 200-inch Hale Telescope. You can hear me talking about this anniversary in a podcast as a part the 365 Days of Astronomy podcasts.

Here are a couple of photos to go with the occasion.

The photo above comes from the LIFE photo archive hosted by Google. In the picture you can see Edwin Hubble inside the prime focus cage high above the 200-inch primary mirror. In those nights the astronomer had to ride inside the telescope to take images and spectra of the objects they wanted to study. Long nights and winter temperatures were known to take their their toll on astronomers who eventually took to wearing World War II surplus electrically-heated flight suits.

Technology eventually came to the rescue. Palomar's astronomers no longer use glass photographic plates, favoring CCD cameras which are more sensitive to light and can be controlled from a warm room.

Edwin Hubble first target on January 26, 1949 was none other than NGC 2261, also known as Hubble's Variable Nebula. Here it is:

On a side note, yesterday's Pasadena Star News had an article on Hale. Pasadena History: Bigger, the better for Hale.


Kate said...

Nice podcast!

Anonymous said...

Miodern astronomers may be more sophisticated, but they have lost a lot being in a heated control room away from the main instruments.

Here is a quote from the thread on the heated flying suits that sums up my point:

"Working at night in the small cage high above the primary mirror, feeling closer to the stars than the Earth, remains an exhilarating and unforgettable experience." - Jesse Greenstein

And besides - you already showed us via Bugs Bunny that all astronomers walk up to their giant telescopes wearing suits and a tie and peer directly through the instrument. And then write resignation letters when they see something they cannot comprehend.