Special Behind the Scenes Engineering Tours

A nuts and bolts look at the most productive Observatory in history!

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Come see the inner workings of the most productive observatory in history!

This special, behind-the-scenes tour concentrates on the mechanical, optical, and electrical details of our 60- & 100-inch reflector telescopes with demonstrations of their motion controls.  The tour includes the Snow Solar Telescope and, returning to the tour this year, the powerhouse and the machine shop.

The engineering that went into the 60- & 100-inch telescopes, both the biggest in the world for their time periods, represented the cutting edge of technology when they opened in 1908 and 1917 respectively.

The Snow Solar Telescope, the first instrument constructed on Mount Wilson, established the world’s first consistent scientific study of the physics of the sun and was also the largest instrument of its kind between 1905 and 1908.  It is still the oldest permanently installed working solar telescope in the Western Hemisphere.

The powerhouse is where, in the early years, all power to run the observatory was produced. The adjoining machine shop is an example of a nearly 100 years old facility used to repair or fabricate parts to keep the telescopes operating.


Engineering tour tickets will be released periodically throughout the season starting in April – check this page for purchase links! 

No Upcoming Events

Directions & Parking

Maps & Directions. When you arrive, please park in the upper parking lot. Tour participants will then be escorted in.



9:00 – Arrival at the Observatory. Please arrive early, rather than late. The gate to the Observatory will open at 8:30.

9:15 – Tour Begins with visits to the 60-inch & 100-inch Telescopes. 

12:15 – Break for lunch (bring your own!).

1:00 – Visit to the Snow Solar Telescope.

1:40– Visit Power House and Machine Shop

2:30 – Engineering Tour ends.

The tour is limited to 10 people so that the participants may fit into the smaller mechanical areas beneath the telescopes.

Please bring water and plenty of food for lunch and snacks. 

Be warned; you may get some grease on yourself! Wear old, comfortable clothing and close-toed shoes. Bring an extra layer or two, as it may get chilly on the mountain in the spring and fall.

This tour involves several staircases and a good deal of walking around the observatory grounds. The century-old facilities are unfortunately not ADA-compliant. Those with cardiac, respiratory, or mobility issues should not attend.

The minimum age is 12.

The tour is $95 per person and all the proceeds go to maintain the Observatory and to keep these historic telescopes fully operational.

All Tour Tickets are non-refundable & non-transferable. The tours will be conducted rain or shine. If we decide to cancel a tour due to severe weather, we will reschedule the tour or issue refunds. 

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