Mount Palomar.

May 22nd, 2008
Saturday afternoon/evening I had an amazing opportunity to take a ‘behind the glass’ tour of the Hale Telescope.
Usually, when you visit the mount and look at the scope, you are behind a glass wall that keeps the heat and air from outside from getting into the air-conditioned dome.
I knew about the ‘
Friends of Palomar‘ for some time, I was tempted to join long before I had the job over here, but things kind of got moving when I met the main person behind the group at the Temecula Valley Astronomy Club meeting.
Susan was able to get me onto the list pronto when there was a cancellation.
So, on the 17th, we assembled at the gift shop (I restrained my self, I will be back with Freddy to make wiser choices!) and then walked up to the 200 inch dome. They call the domes after the size of the telescopes in them, not the size of the domes!
Walking in it was amazing to be able to walk right near the scope and around the supports, to see it from any angle we wanted. (I took over 200 photos that night, be grateful I am only sharing some of those!) Normally they can drive the telescope and you get to see (and hear) it move. However, on our night the ’scope was set up to so some special work for that night so we could not drive it……I have to go back! The other really neat thing we get to do is stand on the dome and they drive it around.
It is so smooth and quite that it seems like you are staying in one spot and the telescope is turning.
The dome weighs 1000 tons and takes only 4 by 7.5 HP motors (a total of 30 hp) to turn it!!!!! It takes about 4 minutes to turn a full 360°. You watch inside for about 1 turn, then you get to go outside on the walkway and watch the world go by, and what a view it is! (See the photos!).
Back inside for a few more things to look at, then its back up to the gift shop car park to have your BYO dinner. It was sooooo nice for me to just be sitting in the quite by the car watching the sun go down, it was just one of those moments that you savor for a long time.

At dusk, you then drive your car around to the 60inch dome.
Even this is impressive. I have a few more photos to animate, but you can get a feel for what it was like from the photos that I do have up.
The first object we looked at was Saturn. It was nice, but the scope and earth were still very warm and the view was boiling a fair bit. A lot of the people spend some time at the eye piece trying to get photos of the view with their mobile phone cameras. Rather than get frustrated, I went outside and broke in my new tripod by taking some photos of the two domes under a nearly full moon.
I could not get the usual star light photos that I love so much, but the moon light ones are not to bad. I will be going back up thats for sure.
Susan had tipped me off that before long the crowd would thin out, and sure enough, by about 10:30 we found ourselfs in the most amazing position of having a 1.5 meter telescope at our beck and call.
We looked at the Eye nebular, also known as the ghost of Jupiter. You could actually see the purple color in it!! The nice thing about the fact that there were only 4-5 of us there was that you got plenty of eyepiece time.  Then we looked at M3, the gloubular cluster. You could resolve stars to the core, just like in the photo. Many of the stars had hints of color in them as well. We looked at some other objects, I should have taken notes, but the last two that jump out at me were the ring nebular. With a little averted vision, the center star could easily be seen!!!! (Thats a 15th magnitude star!!!! (If you dont get it, then don’t worry, just trust the bald geek, this is truly impressive, and something to treasure for a long time!)). Last object was the cats eye nebular. It had a lot of structure in it and a hint of color. Just amazing.

We finished up about 1/4 past midnight, thanking the telescope operator and just a little dazed as to what had just happen.