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 POSS I

  • Made the first comprehensive photographic survey of the entire northern sky.
  • 14-inch square photographic plates, in each of 2 colors: Blue (103aO) and Red (103aF).
  • Became the standard library reference for every major observatory worldwide.
  • 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 first time
  • 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 other objects.

    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 Palomar Observatory
  • 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

    2002 Quaoar Discovered

  • 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

    2003 New QUEST Camera installed

  • Yale University’s 112-CCD, 161-megapixel camera, one of the world’s largest.
  • JPL’s NEAT Survey continues with QUEST camera.
  • Additional survey work continues with searches for variable stars, quasars, gravitational lenses and distant supernovae.

    February, 2004 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.

    November, 2003 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

    October, 2008 Palomar QUEST Survey Completed.

    December, 2008 - present Palomar Transient Factory Survey.