Palomar Mountain State Park
Every night, graduate students and researchers trek up Mount Palomar to the 5600-foot-high Caltech-owned observatory. Nearly 60 years after Palomar first opened for business, its six telescopes are still booked months ahead by astronomers wanting to discover or understand the universe. What's amazing is that this scope was first thought up nearly 79 years ago, in 1928. Caltech bought 160 acres here in the early '30s to get away from L.A. light pollution. The $6 million Hale Telescope, featuring a 200-inch mirror, took 21 years to complete and opened for business in 1949. It was the Hubble of its time, and Edwin Hubble was here to take the first photograph through it. Nearly 60 years later, this Rockefeller-financed phenomenon is still making cutting-edge discoveries, despite the unforeseen arrival of radio telescopes, high-energy astrophysics, the idea of putting a telescope (Hubble) beyond our atmosphere into space, and the ever-encroaching light pollution from San Diego. Why should we light polluters care about Palomar? Its Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking project might provide our only warning of one of those PHAs (potentially hazardous asteroids) heading our way. Your chance to peek through it: become a "Friend" of Palomar. It costs about $45, but "friends" say it's absolutely worth it.