Palomar Observatory Virtual Tour

Thanks to 360° images (photo spheres) kindly shared by a visitor, we are able to offer a short virtual tour of the public areas at Palomar Observatory. A map with the location of these photo spheres (there are far more than what is shown in this page) can be found in Google Views here.

The photo spheres are hosted by Google Maps and are interactive in the same manner as their Street View—the user can change the viewing direction and zoom within each frame. Clicking the white « and » arrows or the × within each photo sphere will transition into the next sphere within the same frame.

Please be patient. Each photo sphere may take a moment to load.

The A. W. Greenway Visitor Center

The Greenway Visitor Center is the first building visitors approach from the parking lot. It contains the museum and the Gift Shop. Navigate into the museum to see our newest exhibit.

Greenway Visitor Center. (Charles Eutsler)

The Hale Telescope Dome Vestibule

Like most of the original architectural details of the Observatory, the vestibule of the Hale Telescope dome was designed by Russell W. Porter. A bust of George E. Hale sculpted by Marian Breckenridge and a recognition plaque to the Rockefeller Foundation acknowledge the Observatory's founder and original patron. The stairs on the left lead to the Visitors Gallery.

Dome vestibule. (Charles Eutsler)

The Visitors Gallery

The Visitors Gallery was included in the original design of Palomar Observatory to accommodate large numbers of visitors wanting to see the Hale Telescope in person. To the left of the large window is an exhibit about Porter and behind to the right is one on the other Palomar research telescopes.

Visitors Gallery. (Charles Eutsler)

The 200-inch Hale Telescope

Visitors who take a guided tour may go inside the dome under the telescope and up the stairs to the dome's interior catwalk—all this while learning about the Observatory's history and scientific achievements from one of our knowledgeable docents.

There are several displays near the windows of the Visitors Gallery, behind the tour group in the first photo sphere. Navigate to the large telescope diagram on the right—it indicates various parts of the telescope and the dome, as well as the path light follows inside the telescope. The suit on display is one of the electrically-heated flight suits worn by astronomers in the days when they used to ride the telescope to observe. Other displays include moving models of the telescope mount and a scale model of the 200-inch Pyrex mirror blank that shows its honeycombed structure. Beyond the cutaway diagram lies the Hartmann screen, used for optical testing during the final figuring of the mirror. The screen is also seen in the third photo sphere, along with the mirror aluminizing chamber (the tank-like cylinder near the yellow lift) and the elevator to the prime focus cage.

Dome floor. (Charles Eutsler)


Interior catwalk on the south side of the telescope. (Charles Eutsler)


Interior catwalk on the east side of the telescope. (Charles Eutsler)

The Grounds

On a fine day, the walk between the Visitor Center and the Hale Telescope dome is a pleasurable one. Visitors are welcome to explore some of the Observatory grounds as long as they stay within the public areas.

Dome west entrance. (Charles Eutsler)


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Virtual Tour / v 1.0
Last updated: 28 May 2015 AFB/ACM