Mount Wilson Observatory – Pasadena, California - Atlas Obscura

Mount Wilson Observatory

This former stomping grounds of the most eminent astronomers of the early 20th century. 


At the peak of Mount Wilson in the San Gabriel Mountains, overlooking the vast L.A. sprawl, there is an observatory over 100 hundred years old.

It was there that Edwin Hubble used a telescope mirror over eight feet wide to made two discoveries that fundamentally changed our definition of the universe. First, he realized that some faint, fuzzy objects that perplexed astronomers for decades were in fact galaxies outside our own Milky Way. Then Hubble recognized that many of these galaxies were speeding away from us, indicating that the universe is expanding. Science!

Mount Wilson was also the site of another famous experiment: in 1926, Nobel winner Albert Michelson made the first modern measurement of the speed of light, timing a brilliant beam as it traveled to a reflecting mirror 22 miles away from the observatory. Today, visitors can see the telescope and chair from which Hubble made his observations, stroll through a quiet museum filled with images of the cosmos, and tread along paths where science greats like Einstein frequently walked. The observatory can be reached via a scenic mountain drive along Angel’s Crest Highway or a day-long hike through Angeles National Forest.

Know Before You Go

Museum and grounds are open seasonally and night time telescope viewing sessions are by appointment. Check official Mount Wilson website for details. From 210, take Highway 2 northbound 14 miles, Red Box Road is on your right. Follow it 5 miles to the top. Park in the large lot and walk on in. Parking passes are required and can be purchased at the Cosmic Cafe on the observation deck.

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January 14, 2014

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