Little known “feature” of the Hale 200″ Telescope at the Palomar Observatory

In 1985 or so I took an Astronomy class at Palomar College. I was 17, and if I recall correctly I got a “C” in the class. Like most people I had no idea that “Astro 101” was going to be an introduction to the chemistry, physics and spectroscopy of stellar systems. I was probably in a bit over my head.

The cool part about the class, one of the few that I actually learned something in, was the Field Trip to Mt. Palomar.

By the 3rd week the class size had dwindled considerably and the instructor offered us a unique opportunity- a group of 6 of us were given a tour by one one of the engineers who maintain the facility. We got the low-down and inside scoop on the facility; for example: the dome that encloses the Hale scope has a little billiards room;  and he advised “never take on an astronomer at pool- there are too many cloudy nights and they know all the angles”.

Another lesser-known feature is the giant concrete and rebar disc that was used during the construction of the mechanical portion of the telescope- used to simulate the weight of the large primary mirror that was being ground and figured in Los Angeles at the time. When the glass arrived the counterweight was dragged outside where it sits to this day. It makes a great place to sit in the sun and eat lunch. It measures about 24″ thick and at least 18 feet across- a good deal longer than a car.

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