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Tours at Palomar Observatory

The following options are available to Palomar Observatory Visitors:

Self-Guided Tours

Most Palomar visitors will tour the accessible areas (see map below) on their own. To facilitate self-guided tours please listen to this audio description (9.2 Mb mp3 file).

Public Guided Tours (April – October)

Map of the Observatory showing the meeting location for the general tours. (Palomar/Caltech)

Public, guided tours of the 200-inch (5.1-meter) Hale Telescope are available to visitors on the weekends (Saturday and Sunday) spring through fall—typically from the first weekend in April to the last weekend October. The tours are roughly one hour long, and limited-availalbility tickets (sold exclusively on a day-of and first-come, first served basis) are required. Please plan accordingly.

Time and Location

Public Tour start times are 11:00 am and 1:30 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Please follow the signs from the Visitor Center to the tour meeting point. Tours start on the northwest side of the Hale Telescope dome (immediately to the left of the large service doors as viewed facing the dome from the west). To ensure you make your tour (and in consideration of others) please be on time.

Tickets

Public tour tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis (limited to 30 persons), and are sold in the Observatory Gift Shop in the Greenway Visitor Center the day of the tour. We cannot offer online or advance ticket sales. The Gift Shop opens at 10:15 am and tickets go on sale for all tours that day at that time.

Tickets are $5.00 per person, $3.00 for seniors (age 65 and over), children age 12 and under are free when accompanied by an adult. Although there is no admission charge, each child must have a ticket. Parents should also understand that the presentations in the dome may not be suited to children less than 7 years old.

Please note that tours may be cancelled due to Observatory operations or available staffing. Check this page for updates.

Educational Group Tours (Year-Round)

Educational group tour. (Palomar/Caltech)

Caltech considers educational outreach to be a major part of its strategic mission. For this reason, Palomar Observatory offers tours at no charge to youth groups at the college and high school levels. These tours may be scheduled on weekdays or on weekends before the regular public tours. Please be aware, however, for reasons related to the operations of the Observatory, there are only a few times during the week when these tours can take place. Tour priority, therefore, is given to educational, youth, non-profit, and traditionally disadvantaged or under represented groups.

For more information, contact Steve Flanders at sbf [at] astro.caltech.edu. These tours are typically an hour in duration. Group tours are for groups up to 30 people and are by reservation only.

Visitors Gallery Presentations (Year-Round)

The Visitors Gallery is an enclosed space within the dome with a clear view of the Hale Telescope. Any group can request a presentation by one of the Observatory docents. We are able to conduct these presentations whenever the Observatory grounds are open. With time for questions and discussion, these presentations describe the history, operations and science of Palomar Observatory. Often we have opportunities to discuss a range of topics in astronomy. These events may last as long as the audience wishes and for this reason we recommend Gallery presentations for children of grade school age. Because there is sitting available, groups of seniors may prefer this option.

For more information, contact Steve Flanders at sbf [at] astro.caltech.edu. As with the educational tours, Gallery presentations may be scheduled at any time during the year.

Important Notes

  • There is no viewing through the Hale Telescope as a part of the tours.
  • As noted above, tours are not recommended for children under 7 years of age.
  • We cannot accommodate pets on tours of the Hale Telescope. However, guests with service dogs are welcome.
  • We regret that we cannot accommodate wheelchair access to the Hale Telescope dome as part the tours. For more information, please see our Visiting Palomar page.
  • Please note that the interior of the Hale Telescope dome is kept at nighttime temperatures for an elevation of 5,598 feet/1,702 meters. Temperatures inside the dome are often in the 30s and 40s °F (0–10 °C) from October through May. Dress accordingly. High-heeled shoes are not recommended for the tours.
  • Please keep in mind that Palomar Observatory is a research facility.

Please send your feedback to palomar-info at astro.caltech.edu

Tours / v 0.1dev
Last updated: 26 June 2014 AFB/SBF/ACM