What do you do when a raging wildfire threatens to engulf your observatory? You light backfires, spray fire retardant and water bomb the slopes… but mostly you just hope for good luck.Last month, the Mt. Wilson Observatory got a welcome dose of good luck when it escaped destruction by the notorious Station Fire, which burned out of control for weeks in the mountainous woodlands north of Los Angeles.
Mt. Wilson is home to the 100-inch Hooker telescope, one of the most storied instruments in the history of astronomy. It’s here that Edwin Hubble gathered the crucial evidence that allowed him to demonstrate, in 1925, that the universe is much, much bigger than previously thought.
In this episode of The Universe in Mind podcast, Harold McAllister, director of the Mt. Wilson Institute, talks about the observatory’s brush with oblivion. Marcia Bartusiak, author of The Day We Found the Universe explains how Hubble’s work on Mt. Wilson was the culmination of an amazing epoch of discovery that saw the cutting edge of observational astronomy migrate from Europe to the New World.
Ivan Semeniuk is host of the podcast The Universe in Mind and a science journalist in residence at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Toronto.