[AZ-Observing] More info on Palomar

  • From: gene lucas <geneluca@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: AZ-Observing <az-observing@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, SAC-Forum <sac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 19 Nov 2008 03:38:10 -0700

I enjoyed reading the article in the November SAC News by Mike Simonsen, 
who covered many of the newest advanced telescopes and esp. sky survey 
projects.  However, he used the traditional photo of Edwin Hubble (with 
pipe) gazing through the 10 inch finder on the big 48 inch Oschin 
Schmidt camera at Palomar.  There have been changes.... For the POSS-II 
sky survey (completed some years ago; no doubt the >last< glass plate 
photo survey to be undertaken) the Big Schmidt was upgraded thoroughly 
with a new corrector plate (better glass), improved plateholder, fixes 
to the mirror supports, etc.  Jean Mueller, who some will recognize as a 
periennial volunteer at the information booth at RTMC, was the principal 
observer for POSS-II.  She is now operates the 200 inch Hale telescope 
as a night assistant.  This article on Wikipedia includes a photo of 
Jean standing next to the Big Schmidt (taken during the POSS-II survey).

I had the privilege of taking an inside tour of the Hale 200 inch dome 
and telescope, and later the Oschin Schmidt telescope some years ago, 
courtesy of Jean Mueller. Our group from the IAPPP entered the 200 inch 
dome via the ground-level shop door, and then went up the stairway 
underneath the telescope to the main observing floor.  We were able to 
walk around under the huge mounting and look at all the working parts, 
esp. the old control desk (which is no longer used).  The telescope is 
now controlled from a laptop PC in a "warm room" to the side of the main 
floor!  Later, we were allowed to walk around the >outside< of the dome 
on the catwalk.  After walking across the observatory grounds to the 
Schmidt telescope, when we stepped into the dome, we saw a portrait of 
Bernhard Schmidt, painted by his nephew, followed by the sight of one of 
the 14 inch glass plates with an image of the Andromeda galaxy on it.  
They set that glass negative out for visitors on a light table, to demo 
the huge field of the telescope-camera.  The (negative) image of the 
galaxy stretched nearly completely across the glass plate, diagonally!

The big Oschin Schmidt is no longer used for "silver" photography -- it 
is now equipped with a very large QUEST CCD camera -- a 9.8 x 7.8 inch 
mosaic of 112 CCDs (installed in the modified former plateholder), and 
is being used to survey for Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and other faint 
solar system objects. It is also now remotely operated from Pasadena (so 
there is nobody in the dome looking through the twin 10 inch finders any 

Here's some interesting tidbits about Palomar by Dr. Bill Keel, who has 
spent his professional career observing with many of the larger and 
famous telescopes around the world...

More info here:

Hope you find this interesting...
Gene Lucas
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