Mount Wilson Observatory Field Trip

Friday, April 26, 2013
  • Note:  Although we are paying for the tour and viewing, this is not an official university trip and is not covered by university insurance.  Everyone travels at their own risk. 
  • Note: An email and a text message will be sent out if the trip is cancelled due to poor viewing conditions. Please check your email before leaving on Friday. Please also  call (626) 793-3100 after 2 pm on the day of the session for the "Go" or "No-go" weather decision.


5:15 PM Arrive at Mt. Wilson, Brief talk on geology and ecology.  Arrive by 5:15
5:45 PM Gate is opened to 60" telescope (call the dome at (626) 793-3065 from the pay phone just outside the gate if you are late. (cell phones are useless up at the top)
6:00 PM Tour of historic telescopes and current research facilities
8:30 PM Viewing through historic 60" Hale Telescope
1:00 AM Depart Mt. Wilson
2:30 AM Carpoolers arrive at CSUN
  • For those arranging their own transportation, Meet at the main parking lot at Mount Wilson at 3:30 pm. 
What to Bring
  • dinner
  • warm clothes (we may have activities outside in addition to viewing through the telescope)
  • folding chair 
What to Expect

The historic 60-inch telescope offers an exceptional night-sky viewing experience. To help make your visit memorable and enjoyable, a session director from Mount Wilson Observatory will contact you before your visit to discuss details. He or she will meet you at the main gate west of the Observatory at a time you have agreed upon, and will be your guide for the evening. VISITORS ARRIVING LATE (OR EARLY) MUST WAIT AT THE GATE FOR THE SESSION DIRECTOR TO ARRIVE AND ESCORT THEM IN. The 60-inch dome can be reached at 793-3065 from the pay phone near the gate (cell phones are unreliable here). DO NOT WALK OR DRIVE IN UNESCORTED.

The session director will direct you to parking spaces near the telescope (except buses), and then explain the “dos” and “don’ts” in and around the dome when you enter. After you are settled in, he or she will give a brief outline of the telescope’s history and significance, and will answer any questions. The dome lights will then be turned down to dim red for observing. Late arrivals are discouraged since they require interruptions in the observing period to repeat the “dos” and “don’ts”.


Go or No-Go: No Later than 2:00 p.m. on the afternoon of the session, a message will be posted at (626) 793-3100 giving the status (confirmed or cancelled) of the session. Everyone in the group is urged to check this number before leaving home to avoid inconvenience.

Viewed objects: The telescope operator has a list of good objects to observe, but groups are encouraged to bring their own list also. The operator’s decision is final on whether a particular object can be observed at a particular time.

Group size: Up to 25 people can be accommodated, with a minimum age of 12.

Handicapped Access: The dome was built in 1908 and is not ADA-compliant, offering no access for those who cannot climb stairs. Visiting is not suggested for those with respiratory or heart problems due to the stairs and the 5700-ft elevation

Parking: Parking space near the dome is limited, so carpooling is strongly encouraged. Eight or ten vehicles can be accommodated. Large buses must be parked in the main parking lot about 1/4 mile from the dome, where a Forest Adventure Pass is required. Buses are not encouraged since visitors must then carpool back from the dome in the dark after the session.

Warm clothing: Mount Wilson’s elevation is 5700 feet. Even in summer, nighttime temperatures can be as low as 50F. In winter, it is usually much colder. Warm coats, sweaters, and hats are suggested. The dome is NOT heated.

Chairs: We provide chairs for everyone, but visitors can bring folding lounges, etc. if desired.

Flashlights: When leaving the dome to go to your vehicle, you must have an ordinary white flashlight. The grounds are NOT lighted and are rough and steep in some places. Inside the dome, when lights are out for observing, the use of white flashlights is not permitted on the observing floor. Bring a red flashlight or simply let your eyes adapt to the dim red light of the observing area.

Refreshments: We provide hot water, hot chocolate, coffee, tea, cups, and spoons. Snacks such as cookies, fruit, sandwiches, etc. are welcome. A microwave oven is available.

NO alcoholic beverages are permitted. Smoking is not permitted anywhere on the Observatory grounds except inside closed vehicles.

Restroom: A restroom is provided on the ground floor.

Photography: Photography is allowed, except that flashes must be disabled when the dome lights are out for observing. Photography through the eyepiece is possible with some cameras, but is time- consuming and is best tried after all others have seen the object visually. 


NOTE: Narrow, winding road. Allow at least 45 minutes from La Canada-Flintridge to Mount Wilson.

From the 210 freeway, follow the Angeles Crest Highway (State Highway 2) north out of La Canada- Flintridge, past the Angeles Forest Highway turnoff to Palmdale, to the Mount Wilson turnoff at Red Box. This is about 14 miles from the 210 Freeway. Drive about 5 miles more to Mount Wilson. You will arrive at a small intersection near a number of transmitter towers. Follow the “Observatory” sign on the one-way road to the far right around the towers until you reach the Forest Service main gate, which is the entrance to Skyline Park and the Observatory.

Your Session Director will meet you at the specified time at the main gate, not in the parking lot, and will lead you to the Observatory. Please do not drive or walk past the gate without the Session Director.

If your vehicle is larger than a 15-passenger van, you will park in the main lot and walk or carpool with the Session Director to the Observatory (about a quarter mile), and your vehicle will be required by the Forest Service to display a Forest Adventure Pass or Golden Age Passport. Smaller vehicles will be directed to park on the Observatory grounds near the 60-inch dome, and will need no such Pass.

If you arrive late, wait outside the gate and call the 60-inch dome at (626) 793-3065 from the nearby pay phone ($.50). Cell phones rarely function here. Again, please do not drive in on your own.

22 SEP 2008