Last night Mel and I watched Journey to Palomar on DVD. It’s a new PBS documentary about George Ellery Hale and how he created the largest telescope in the world, the Hale Telescope on Mt. Palomar. The film is billed as America’s First Journey into Space.
The movie is more than just about Palomar. It’s about Hale and how he created not just one large telescope but three of the largest ones on the world: Yerkes, Mt. Wilson, and Palomar. I also learned he also helped found CalTech. The movie is truly riveting. He also got some of the richest men in America to fund them: Yerkes, Hooker, Carnegie, Rockefeller. Not a small accomplishment.
It was fascinating watching people coming out in droves to see an enormous mirror blanks 100″ and 200″ being moved from place to place. First for Mt. Wilson and second for Palomar. It was very much like the way people came out to see the first space shuttle being transported on the ground. The other thing that struck me was how large the dome at Palomar is. It’s the size of the Dome of the Pantheon in Rome. Here’s a picture of the dedication ceremony.
Here’s the trailer:
I got the DVD through Netflix. It’s well worth it for the extras. It has three short films about upcoming telescopes: James Web Space Telescope, the Giant Magellan Telescope, and the Thirty-Meter Telescope. More info about program over at PBS. It’s one of the best science documentaries I’ve seen in a long time. It’s also very approachable. It will appeal to a non-science crowd. I think that is why I liked it so much.