Discoveries from Palomar Observatory’s 48-inch Samuel Oschin Telescope
What follows is a brief, non-inclusive, history of some of the work done on the Samuel Oschin Telescope
1938 – 1948 The Schmidt Telescope constructed at Palomar Observatory
Building started in 1938 and finished in 1948 (after delays due to the war).
It is the largest example of a wide-field (6 x 6 degrees) survey telescope.
Designed for photographic surveys of the whole available sky.
1949 – 1958 National Geographic Society-Palomar Observatory Sky Survey
Made the first comprehensive photographic survey of the entire northern
14-inch square photographic plates, in each of 2 colors: Blue (103aO)
and Red (103aF).
Became the standard library reference for every major observatory
Survey extended to southern sky in 1970s with the UK Schmidt in
Australia (a virtual copy of the Palomar Schmidt) and a smaller
ESO Schmidt in Chile.
POSS I was used to produce the first major catalog of galaxy clusters
which allowed astronomers to map the structure of the universe for the
Additionally new globular clusters, dwarf galaxy companions of our
Galaxy, merging and interacting galaxies, and the first optical
identifications of radio sources and quasars were made using POSS I
1959 – 1975 Supernova Searches
183 exploding stars, known as supernovae discovered in monthly surveys.
Many more discovered on old plates from the first Sky Survey.
1960 Palomar-Leiden Survey
Discovered ~2400 asteroids in 11 nights.
1962 – 1971 Palomar Proper Motion Survey
A photographic survey to determine motions of stars discovered
many of the stars closest to our solar system.
1971 First Palomar-Leiden Trojan Survey
Discovered ~750 Trojan Asteroids in 9 nights
1973 Second Palomar-Leiden Trojan Survey
Discovered ~1,400 Trojan Asteroids in 8 nights
1977 Third Palomar-Leiden Trojan Ssurvey
Discovered ~1,500 Trojan Asteroids in 7 nights
1980 – 1985 Upgrades to the 48-inch Schmidt Telescope
Achromatic corrector and Autoguiding.
New emulsions from Kodak allowed the survey to record fainter
objects and in three colors – IIIaJ (blue), IIIaF.(red), IVN (near infrared).
1982 Quick V Survey
The survey was used to form the northern half of Hubble Space
Telescope’s Guide Star Catalog. Included within it are the
positions and brightnesses for approximately 19 million stars and
1985 – 2000
Second Palomar Observatory Sky Survey
POSS II encompasses 897 survey quality plates in each of 3 colors.
Forms the basis for the digital survey (DPOSS), the second HST GSC,
and the USNO astrometric and photometric catalogs, all of which contain
over 1 billion stars and over 50 million galaxies
More than hundred supernovae discovered.
Dozens of comets and asteroids discovered.
The digitized version of the sky survey has been used in many
fields of astronomical research including finding over 100 high red
shift (very distant) quasars (a record number until very recently) and
about 20,000 clusters of galaxies - the largest such catalog ever.
1986 Telescope Renamed as Samuel Oschin Telescope
Samuel Oschin Family Foundation awards grant to Caltech’s
Funds used for POSS II, adaptive optics on the 200-inch telescope,
new CCD cameras, and more
2001 Samuel Oschin Telescope Automation
Original photographic camera replaced with a new 3-CCD electronic camera.
Telescope control system automated to enable automatic operation.
Upgrades enable continuous, automatic survey of sky for moving
objects (asteroids, comets), variable stars and transient objects
(supernovae, gamma-ray bursts).
2001- 2003 Near Earth Asteroid
Tracker (NEAT) Survey
JPL’s NEAT survey discovered 189 near-earth asteroids and 20 comets
Quaoar is a frozen world located in what is known as the Kuiper Belt
At 800 miles in diameter Quaoar is the largest object found in our
solar system since the planet Pluto was discovered in 1930.
Gamma-Ray Burst Observations
October 4, 2002
- An image was obtained by the Samuel Oschin Telescope with the
NEAT camera just 9 minutes after the burst was detected by satellite.
- Astronomers world-wide were notified of the event within 3 hours.
- The most interesting science was the slow early-time decay, which
may be due to on-going activity of a black hole central engine.
December 11, 2002
- Image of a gamma-ray burst 20 minutes after the burst.
Announcement to the world less than an hour after the burst.
- The most interesting science was the demonstration that the burst,
although faint, was not "dark" -- that is, the faintness of the burst
was not due to absorption by gas and dust in its host galaxy.
QUEST Camera installed
Yale University’s 112-CCD, 161-megapixel camera, one of the world’s
JPL’s NEAT Survey continues with QUEST camera.
Additional survey work continues with searches for variable stars, quasars, gravitational lenses and distant supernovae.
Orcus (2004 DW) Discovered
2004 DW is another Kuiper Belt object.
It is even larger than Quaoar, possibly 1,000 miles across.
It orbits the Sun at a distance 42 times greater than Earth’s,
about every 250 years.
Sedna (2003 VB12) Discovered
Most distant known object to orbit the Sun (10,500 year orbit)
Possibly as large as 1,100 miles in diameter
July, 2005 Dwarf Planet Eris (2003 UB313) Discovery Announced
Orbits the Sun with a 560 year period
Larger than Pluto, ~2,400 km in diameter
November, 2006 The Big
Picture Unveiled at Griffith Observatory
Largest astronomical photograph ever produced
152 feet wide and 20 feet high
Palomar QUEST Survey Completed.
December, 2008 - present
Palomar Transient Factory Survey.