News and culture through the lens of Southern California.
Hosted by A Martínez
Airs Weekdays 9 to 10 a.m.

The 100-year-old telescope at Mt. Wilson that changed cosmology forever




The Hooker Telescope dome.
The Hooker Telescope dome.
Julian Burrell

Listen to story

03:46
Download this story 2.0MB

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.

County officials say no structures are immediately threatened by a brush fire that broke out before dawn Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, on steep hillsides near the historic observatory on Mt. Wilson above Los Angeles.
County officials say no structures are immediately threatened by a brush fire that broke out before dawn Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, on steep hillsides near the historic observatory on Mt. Wilson above Los Angeles.
Screenshot from NBC4

"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 Dome from a distance.
The Hooker Telescope Dome from a distance.
Julian Burrell

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. 

The interior of the Hooker Telescope dome. The 100-inch telescope is in the center.
The interior of the Hooker Telescope dome. The 100-inch telescope is in the center.
Julian Burrell

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."

Click here to find out more about Saturday's celebration at the Mt. Wilson Observatory.

To hear more about the 100th anniversary of Mt. Wilson's Hooker telescope, click the blue player above.