Today, Mount Wilson is safe from the terrible Bobcat Fire devastating the Angeles National Forest. The fire came within 20 feet of this irreplaceable scientific and cultural treasure making the efforts of the firefighters to save it truly heroic. Our thanks are deeply and sincerely felt.
On top of this, the pandemic forced the cancellation of all our revenue generating programs for the year.
Yet, Mount Wilson Observatory needs to renovate some of our historic buildings, to upgrade and expand the public facilities, and to continue to grow our educational and cultural programing, all to ensure a safe future in the beauty of the forested location. Here students and the public can experience the wonders of the cosmos on the mountaintop where the key astronomical discoveries of our time were made. To that end, the Board of the Mount Wilson Institute has diligently worked to maintain and upgrade the instruments and structures and to clear the surrounding area of brush and non-native, fire susceptible trees. We have repaired and filled three large water tanks with almost one million gallons available to fight fires and supply potable water in years of drought. These efforts paid off during the Bobcat Fire as firefighters worked to save the area having the benefit of filled tanks and defensible space around structures. Again, many thanks to our courageous firefighters.
The future of Mount Wilson depends on continued, courageous efforts. Now you too can help
Here are some of the most urgent projects on our To Do list for completion by 2024.
- Ongoing fire security needs, including restoring the terrain to its native state
- Dark-sky appropriate roadway lighting
- Public bathrooms
- Refurbish The Monastery (the residential quarters for scientists like Albert Einstein and Edwin Hubble)
- Auditorium and museum renovations to bring these facilities into the 21st century
- Expand mountaintop STEAM programs and create streaming to school
- Continued cultural programs such as lectures in the Auditorium and concerts in the 100-inch telescope dome
May we count on your support?
The golden age of astronomy began in southern California in 1904 when George Ellery Hale, under the auspices of Carnegie Institution of Washington, began observing on the isolated mountaintop of Mount Wilson. In 1917, “first light” on the world’s largest telescope, the 100-inch, launched the great discoveries that made cosmic history, created local industries, and shaped culture forever. In 1924, Edwin C. Hubble informed the world that he had proof that the Andromeda Galaxy was beyond the boundaries of our own Milky Way Galaxy. Once thought to hold all of creation, the Milky Way is actually just one of billions and billions of galaxies. So, Mount Wilson is literally where we discovered our place in the universe.
Although modern observatories have taken over the role of making groundbreaking astronomical observations, Mount Wilson Observatory remains the grandfather of them all. It offers unprecedented opportunities for the public to actually use the same telescopes, walk the same trails, observe the same skies, and ponder their place in the universe just as Hale, Einstein, Shapley, Hubble, and many others did a century ago.
Today, the vision of founders George Ellery Hale and Andrew Carnegie continues in the research conducted on site by Georgia State University’s CHARA array and with Mount Wilson's many educational and public programs offered. A limited staff, numerous passionate volunteers, and a dedicated board of trustees work diligently to “maintain the grounds for public use and enjoyment” and provide basic services to hikers, visitors, and guests from Los Angeles and around the world.
A public engagement program shares the astonishing, and often overlooked, historical and cultural heritage of Mount Wilson. A STEAM program offers field trips, observing, and overnight stays for over 400 K-12 students each year, with hands-on teaching by professional astronomers who make science come alive.
From April through October when the mountain roads to Mount Wilson are accessible, monthly Astronomy Lectures bring the wonders of science to a packed 250-seat auditorium. This is followed by viewing the heavens through the historic 100-inch telescope. And all through the year, weather permitting, the 60-inch and the 100-inch are available to groups to rent. The 100-inch is the biggest telescope in the world that can be used by the public.
Additionally, our Sunday Afternoon Concerts in the Dome series offers exquisite music in a cathedral of science. The exceptional acoustics in the 100-inch dome make this is a perfect place to experience the power and joy of live music. The captivating astronomical setting, the sense of wonder during the opening of the giant shutters and dome rotation, and the virtuoso performances together provide an experience truly worthy of the founders’ original vision.
The administration has worked tirelessly to make sure the facility is in the best condition possible for all these programs, paying particular attention to public safety, sufficient water, ample free parking, restrooms, roads, and fire defense measures.
Although all our public engagement programs have been suspended due to COVID 19, we are developing technological capabilities that enable us to broadcast our programs as well as images of space through our great telescopes to an even wider and more diverse community.
Mount Wilson Institute (MWI) was founded in 1989 to preserve the legacy of Mount Wilson Observatory. MWI receives no regular support from institutions or governments. We are a volunteer organization tasked with maintaining the historic buildings and instruments on the mountain so that the unifying experiences of cosmic exploration and cosmic perspective may be shared by all.
You can make a difference, just like Hale, and Hubble and Einstein. You can help create a 21st century future for Mount Wilson Observatory. Please do what you can, so that we can continue to offer our STEAM programs to students, to provide our concerts, lectures, tours, and telescope viewings to the public, and to be a careful and conscientious protector of our scientific treasures and surrounding grounds.
The Mount Wilson Institute is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. No goods or services will be provided for this contribution. Please consult your personal tax advisor for individual tax information.