Mount Wilson Observatory, La Canada Flintridge

#2 of 6 in Things to do in La Canada Flintridge
Observatory · Hidden Gem · Museum
The Mount Wilson Observatory (MWO) is an astronomical observatory in Los Angeles County, California, United States. The MWO is located on Mount Wilson, a 1,740-metre (5,710-foot) peak in the San Gabriel Mountains near Pasadena, northeast of Los Angeles.

The observatory contains two historically important telescopes: the 100-inch (2.5 m) Hooker telescope, which was the largest aperture telescope in the world from its completion in 1917 to 1949, and the 60-inch telescope which was the largest operational telescope in the world when it was completed in 1908. It also contains the Snow solar telescope completed in 1905, the 60 foot (18 m) solar tower completed in 1908, the 150 foot (46 m) solar tower completed in 1912, and the CHARA array, built by Georgia State University, which became fully operational in 2004 and was the largest optical interferometer in the world at its completion.

Due to the inversion layer that traps warm air and smog over Los Angeles, Mount Wilson has steadier air than any other location in North America, making it ideal for astronomy and in particular for interferometry. The increasing light pollution due to the growth of greater Los Angeles has limited the ability of the observatory to engage in deep space astronomy, but it remains a productive center, with the CHARA Array continuing important stellar research.

The initial efforts to mount a telescope to Mount Wilson occurred in the 1880's by one of the founders of University of Southern California, Edward Falles Spence, but he died without finishing the funding effort. The observatory was conceived and founded by George Ellery Hale, who had previously built the 1 meter telescope at the Yerkes Observatory, then the world's largest telescope. The Mount Wilson Solar Observatory was first funded by the Carnegie Institution of Washington in 1904, leasing the land from the owners of the Mount Wilson Hotel in 1904. Among the conditions of the lease was that it allow public access.
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  • We spent a few hours at the Observatory. Seeing the location where so much astrophysics occurred and is still occurring is amazing. If you are an astronomy buff this is the place to go. The...  more »
  • A pretty drive up a winding mountain road with great views of the L.A. basin out to the ocean, leading to the centerpiece that changed our understanding of our place in the universe. If you have the....  more »
  • Long hike but def worth the effort. You hike up here and see all the towers & telescopes that are much bigger in person than from down the mountain. The restroom, cafe and water refill stations are awesome, I'd come back (driving not hike) again for sure
  • Ever hear of the Hubble Telescope? Well..the Astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered our modern understanding of the Universe at Mount Wilson Observatory. This place is amazing! Take a tour on the weekend or check out their website for public viewing nights.

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