Today we dragged the boy with us back to the Palomar Observatory and this time we actually took the tour. Good thing we went today. Tomorrow is the final day for tours until next April. The tour was pretty interesting. It lasted over an hour. Peter was like a 5-year-old. Eli was like a bored 18-year-old. I was like...well...me. It's very very cold in that observatory. And what some people don't know is that there are multiple observatories on that mountain. There are four, including the big lens that's so famous, and three little Monopoly-shaped houses that connected via aluminun-type piping. These little houses actually contain their own mirrors and telescoping equipment. They combine their lights through the silver piping and can render images from space that have greater resolution than their super huge neighbor.
The guides explained all of the genius and IQ points that went into the mirror that is used at Palomar. The lens is 24 inches thick with a 220 inch diameter. It's shaped like a bowl. The mirror was made by Corning in New York and shipped via train to California before WWII going only 25 mph and only during the day. People lined up along side the tracks to watch it go past. Everything in that building speaks to the glory days of American manufacturing and industry. The wooden doors, the tiles, every piece of construction and work is a piece of pride.
And props to the four tour guides; 3 physicists and one docent-all great guys. They have to answer all of the questions of the tourists. One of the people (bless their heart) asked, "Why don't you do something to modernize the mirror, you know, UPDATE it!" The guy waited maybe, .00025 seconds before answering, "This is the one of the most advanced pieces of technology on the planet. It can't BE updated. It's the perfect machine." I was waiting for an imaginary pie to fly down and hit the tourist in his face. Somethings are better BECAUSE they were made 60 years ago. That, combined with today's technology to KEEP them better, equal one dynamite piece of machinery...I'd like to include myself in that equation.... :)
The lens has photographed some of the most amazing scenery ever created using technology that I can't understand, let alone explain. The heavens often take my breath away. With boundaries that big, it takes God to make you feel that you're secure-it does for me anyway. And maybe that's why the following quote resonates with me:
What is essential is invisible to the eye, Antoine de Saint Exupery