Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Visit to Corning, NY

I gave an invited talk about Palomar Observatory to an audience at the Corning Museum of Glass. It was an important presentation for me as Corning is the birthplace of Palomar's 200-inch mirror. I had the chance to fill everyone in on what the astronomers have been doing with it over the years. I was happy that there was a nice crowd for the talk and that they asked me many follow-up questions. I even got a positive review in the Corning newspaper. More importantly I had the chance to meet some great people, look through some historical archives and explore the fabulous collection in the museum.

It should be no secret that my favorite piece in the Corning Museum of Glass is the first disc that was cast for the 200-inch telescope. The casting ultimately turned out to be a failure (read about it here), but it became the first piece in what is now a world-famous collection of glass.

Here is a short video that I shot showing the 20-ton failed disc:

Here is a link to the video on YouTube.

I also had the chance to finally meet glass artist Mark Peiser. Mark has created a series of pieces inspired by the 200-inch mirror for the Hale Telescope. (You can read some earlier posts about Mark's work here and here).

Here I am with Mark in the Rakow Research Library. One of Mark's pieces, seen between us, from his "Palomar Series" is on display as a part of the Mirror to Discovery exhibit at the Rakow. Mark recently sent me some photos of some of his newer pieces in his Palomar Series. I will likely make another post on them in (hopefully) the near future, but here is a preview showing one called "Palomar Rising":

I also had the honor of meeting some of the family of Dr. George V. McCauley, the man from Corning Glass Works who was in charge of creating the glass giant.

That's me with Dr. McCauley's daughter, Anne Price and her son Rick and his wife Sheila. Behind us is a portion of the Mirror to Discovery exhibit in the Rakow Research Library. In the glass case are some cool Palomar/Corning artifacts including this unassuming gem:

It is the drawing board that Dr. McCauley used to design the 200-inch mirror. For a nice look at his design visit this page from the Corning Museum of Glass and look for the image "Plan View and Cross Section of Mirror" and you'll find out a surprise about the 200-inch.

One final thing about the Mirror to Discovery exhibit in the Rakow Research Library, the staff there developed some trading cards for the kids that take a tour through the exhibit. They show the story of the making of the 200-inch mirror, the disc that is on display in the museum and even some astrophotos from Palomar. It is a nice set of cards and I couldn't resist taking a picture of them here at Palomar with the Hale Telescope in the background.

In case you were wondering, the 200-inch mirror is enclosed in the steel ring with the black circles.

Finally, I would like to extend my personal thanks to everyone at the Rakow Library and the Corning Museum of Glass for making this such wonderful visit. It was an honor for me to be able to represent the observatory at the birthplace of the Hale Telescope's mirror.


Bob said...

Fascinating post with very interesting links. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great Scott,

I guess You've found this Corning website with great graphics:

Best regards,