Journey to Palomar.

Wow, what day……. Fantastic. I think the best thing to do it just go over it as it happen…….

I got up on the mountain at about 9:15. I was a little late because there was a photographer taking photos of the bikes on the way up, I was disappointed that I missed out last time, so this time I stopped and got his business card. I am going to buy the photo and will post it here…….
So, once I got up there, I went to the gift shop to pick up my nice new docent name badge and then headed up to the dome.
There were only two people in there, so the lady came over and let me in. Turns out that the two people were Todd and Robin, the husband and wife team that made the film. That was pretty neat to meet them like that.
Before long, Scott arrived and I started helping him bring chairs out of his car into the freight elevator at the bottom of the dome…… Sounds boring right? Hah! This was the Hale Telescope! It was a cloudy day and there were clouds coming in the open door we were walking in and out of!!!! It was very neat looking. While I am carting chairs I was smiling ear to ear!
We got a bunch of chairs up, but Todd was wanting to get the screen set up, so Scott let me tackle that one. Phew, it was a pretty big job, but you have to remember I was putting it together right under the telescope. I really did not get distracted, but it was a really neat environment to be ‘working’ in.
We got the screen up and then hung some curtains on the side, it really looked super. (Link to all photos at the end of the blog).
By this time a whole bunch of people had showed up, along with the food, so it was a chance to unwind a little. I was standing at the side and a guy walked up and we started chatting….. Turns out that David had worked as an electronics tech at Palomar for about 28 years. He had retired about 8 months ago. Anyway, we got talking, and he has some fantastic stories to tell……. He also took me to look at the ‘phantom telescope’ that used to drive the dome (photo in album)….. Trust me, this was VERY cool and VERY exciting.

So the movie is introduced, but Scott and Dan (the superintendent) had planed to slew the telescope over every ones head just before the movie started, it got a lot of ooooss and aaaahhhsss.

The movie was great. I did not take enough clothes and got really cold half way through, but it did not slow me down none. I learn’t so much about George Ellery Hales life, it was just amazing. I never thought I would get into history like this, but I am really drinking in all I can on the topic.
Todd and Robin have done a great job, and they should be proud of their work, its a great film.

After the movie something rather rare happen. They opened the shutters and left them open. Even Jean, the telescope operator was taking photos (she made the point that if they do open it in the day, she is asleep, but she also made the point that they do not open it and leave it open very long usually).
I did what every self respecting telescope nut would do……I went bizerk with the camera. I took over 200 photos. Its not normally that well lit so I wanted to make the most of the occasion. Most of the photos are in my web album, I have a few that I have not put up because they are just slightly different angles of the same thing.
I even got to go into the operators room and saw where Jean sits and where the astronomers sit. (See the photo link).

After a while they shut the shutters and it was time to take everything down and go home.
It only took a moment to pull the screen down, get the chairs out (lots of helpers) and pack things up.
It was a bit of a cold ride home. (Have I mentioned how much I miss my bike gear?). But I was glowing. It was just the best day. Just amazing. I’m still on a bit of a high from it.

The photos are here. Just click on the arrows above each image to go forward or back. (Click on ‘Slideshow’ for the best full screen view).

On a related note, be sure and check out this guys blog entry of a special tour he and two friends were given…. He puts it better than I can in a lot of places.