The Mt. Wilson's Hooker telescope has contributed to some of the most significant discoveries in the history of astronomy. But as its centennial approached, a fire almost prevented anyone on site from being able to celebrate.
"Things got scrambled a little bit last week as we had the Wilson fire," said Dan Kohne, Mt. Wilson Board of Trustees member. All the workers at the facility had planned all year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Hooker telescope. But when the blaze broke out in mid October, it complicated things.
"Everyone had to be evacuated," Kohne said. "They're dropping in the water and those fire retardants. But it's always scary. You never know."
Responders were eventually able to extinguish the blaze and an evacuation order was lifted, which meant guests could go to the observatory to get a first-hand look at the Hooker telescope.
The Hooker telescope and its 100-inch lens have contributed to many major discoveries in the scientific community.
Evidence for the expansion of the universe, dark matter, and moons of Jupiter have all been documented thanks to the pictures taken with its 100-inch reflector.
"The biggest breakthroughs of the last century that still define our cosmology today were discovered on this very telescope," Kohne said.
On Saturday, Kohne and other staffers will lead people into the dome housing the telescope. The roof will be opened to give the telescope its view of the sky.
While the telescope is stationary, Kohne is able to rotate the entire dome around it, including the floor of the central area.
Kohne wants this experience to help bring the big concepts of astronomy back down to Earth for attendees. "If you go through the process, people can understand it," he said. "If you have to try to decipher it through words, it becomes too mysterious or you give up. But it's totally understandable."