Mount Wilson Observatory’s 60-inch telescope was completed in 1908 by Observatory founder George Ellery Hale with funding from Andrew Carnegie. It was the world’s largest operational telescope until Hale went on to complete the Mt. Wilson 100-inch telescope in 1917. For a more detailed history of this revolutionary instrument, which became the model for all large observatory telescopes of the future, see the article "Building the 60-inch Telescope
Among the many important discoveries from the 60-inch telescope was Harlow Shapley’s revelation in 1918 that the accepted view of the time, that our Sun was near the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, was wrong. Shapley used the light gathering power of the 60-inch to show that our solar system is instead half way out toward the edge of our Galaxy. The telescope was a workhorse instrument for astronomy for over half a century and used by astronomical luminaries such as Edwin Hubble, Walter Baade, and Allan Sandage to unravel the secrets of stars and galaxies.
Now retired from active scientific service, the 60-inch and the 100-inch telescopes are the largest in the world made exclusively available to the public. With their large light-collecting mirrors and the exquisite skies over Mount Wilson, these historic telescopes provide an unrivaled and unique astronomical experience.
Your Session Director will arrange your visit
What to bring with you for the observing session
- Meeting Time: Chosen or agreed to by the Session Director, typically around Sunset. For safety and other logistic considerations, planning multiple additional arrival time(s) cannot be accommodated.
- Parking: We can accommodate up to 10 cars or up to a 30-passenger bus to park at or near the telescope dome. Any greater number of cars or larger size of passenger bus will require special logistics and must be discussed with the Session Director well in advance of the session.
- National Forest Adventure Pass: Only needed if the Session Director determines that special logistics parking is required. Go to www.fs.fed.us/r5/angeles if passes are required.
- Cancellation: Your session confirmation or cancellation the day of the session may be done only by the Session Director. Weather, telescope/observatory operations and/or external reasons are some factors that may require cancelling the session.
- Dome logistics and accommodations: Dome lights will be turned down to dim red for observing.
- No Handicapped Access: The dome was built in 1908 and is not ADA-compliant, offering no access for those who cannot climb stairs and ladders. Visiting is not suggested for those with respiratory or heart problems due to the stairs and the 5700-ft elevation.
- Chairs: Mount Wilson Observatory provides chairs.
- Refreshments: We provide hot water, hot chocolate, coffee, tea, cups, and stirrers/spoons.
- Smoking (including “vapors”) & Alcoholic Beverages are not permitted at Mount Wilson Observatory.
- Restroom: Located inside the dome, on the ground level.
- Photography: Non-flash photography through the eyepiece during the observing session will be permitted, with the approval of the Telescope Operator and Session Director. Special and advance approval from the Session Director is required for cameras or other devices to be mounted to the telescope. Before the session starts, feel free to take photographs of the telescope and Observatory grounds.
- Clothing: Warm layers like sweater, coat, hat, etc. as the dome is not heated and the
temperature in the dome can quickly drop. Sturdy closed-toed shoes/boots.
- Flashlights: White flashlight when leaving the dome; red flashlight duriing the observing time.
- Refreshments: You may bring your own snacks and non-alcoholic beverages to be consumed on
the observing level.
- Observing list: While the Telescope Operator has a list of appropriate objects for the 60-inch Telescope, please feel free to bring your own observing list. The Telescope Operator’s decision is final on whether a particular object can be observed at a particular time.
The 2017 fee rates are $1000 per half night and $1700 per full night for a group of up to 25 people.
We are able to schedule a half night of observing for the first half of the night only. Logistical problems preclude us from scheduling two different groups for the first and second halves of the night. We also do not provide a service for matching different groups to share the same reservation. Occasional individually-ticketed nights are announced during the season from this website and from our Facebook Page
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Requests are processed in the order that they are received.
For telescope users interested in taking photographs, click here
for a PDF file with helpful information on how to get the best images at your 60-inch Telescope viewing session.