Yerkes Observatory (Photos!)

This past weekend, we visited Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, near where we each vacationed as children, long before we knew each other. This University of Chicago observatory was funded by Charles Tyson Yerkes, but the 40-inch refracting telescope and the building that houses it are the result of George Ellery Hale’s first grand vision to build the largest telescope in the world. If … Continue reading Yerkes Observatory (Photos!)

Hale, Palomar, and (the End of) the Story (Part 11)

We’ve spent a lot time and posts thinking about George Ellery Hale and his observatories over the last nine months or so, and it’s come time to say good-bye to this topic. We visited Hale’s crowning achievement: the 200-inch telescope at the Palomar Observatory that bears his name. That’s where we started this journey nine months ago, and that’s where we’ll end it. As was … Continue reading Hale, Palomar, and (the End of) the Story (Part 11)

Palomar Observatory: Hale (Part 10)

There’s an oft-quoted adage, It’s better to be lucky than smart. The suggestion seems to be that a roll of the dice is a better plan for success than having a better plan than everyone else. In her biography of astronomer George Ellery Hale, Explorer of the Universe, Helen Wright says, “Certainly Will Hale had been right when he called his brother [George] the greatest … Continue reading Palomar Observatory: Hale (Part 10)

Palomar Observatory: Hale (Part 9)

To start with this “Palomar Observatory” series at the beginning, click HERE. We’ve expended a fair amount of words describing George Ellery Hale’s penchant for building the world’s largest telescope; after all, he did it on four separate occasions. If his legacy were to rest solely on his efforts to build these technical masterpieces—each device gave humanity the ability to peer deeper and more perceptively … Continue reading Palomar Observatory: Hale (Part 9)

Palomar Observatory: Hale (Part 8)

Our previous post in this series can be found HERE. Our university’s library, where Doug is the Science Librarian, contains an excellent DVD about Hale and the Palomar Observatory: The Journey to Palomar: America’s First Journey Into Space. The italics are the filmmakers and are an emphatic reference to the ability of Hale’s telescopes to present humankind with a revelatory view into the cosmos. This … Continue reading Palomar Observatory: Hale (Part 8)

Palomar (and Mount Wilson) Observatory: Hale, Refraction, and Reflection (Part 7)

To start at the beginning of our series on Palomar Observatory and the man called Hale, click HERE. The supposed deathbed words of the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, author of Faust, were supposedly, “More light!” In German, Mehr Licht! For many, these final words have been a cry for inspiration and a reflection of Goethe’s lifelong fascination with light (Goethe also authored a … Continue reading Palomar (and Mount Wilson) Observatory: Hale, Refraction, and Reflection (Part 7)

Palomar Observatory: Bigger Is Better (Part 6)

The tag cloud for our blog is a litany for aviation, science, and space exploration. Air Shows, Nobel Prize, Radioactivity, and Space Shuttle are among the keywords that are featured prominently. Only one abstract concept appears in the list: Serendipity. The first page of Google results will tell anyone who bothers to look that Serendipity is “a happy accident” or a “fortunate mistake.” The road … Continue reading Palomar Observatory: Bigger Is Better (Part 6)

Palomar Observatory: A Man and Big Dreams (Part 5)

To begin where we did in this story, with our own trip to Palomar Observatory, start with PART 1. In the second half of the 19th century, Chicago grew at an unprecedented rate: from 4,000 people in 1833 to one million in 1890. This is not the unprecedented of today’s hyperbole-inclined, media-saturated world. This is the unprecedented of Merriam-Webster: “not done or experienced before.” To … Continue reading Palomar Observatory: A Man and Big Dreams (Part 5)

Palomar Observatory: Hale (Part 4)

To go back and begin reading this series from our initial visit to Palomar Observatory, start with PART 1. When the big book of facts is finally written, it’s possible that George Ellery Hale’s contributions to changing the United States into a techno-scientific nation will outshine those of all others. Hale, eventually, spearheaded the building of Palomar Observatory, the biggest telescope in the world at … Continue reading Palomar Observatory: Hale (Part 4)

Palomar Observatory (Part 3)

You may want to start with the earlier posts on our trip to Palomar Observatory: Part 1 and Part 2. Longtime readers of Lofty Ambitions know that we’ve devoted a number of blog posts to the Manhattan Project and its legacy. We’ve made several treks to Los Alamos. We visited and wrote about the Nevada Test Site, that enormous expanse of the American west where … Continue reading Palomar Observatory (Part 3)