“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Pasadena in Los Angeles County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)

Harvardís Mount Wilson Station

Harvardís Mount Wilson Station Marker image. Click for full size.
By Roger W. Sinnott, June 5, 2012
1. Harvardís Mount Wilson Station Marker
Station of
Harvard College

Erected 1910 by Edward C. Pickering, Harvard College Observatory.
Location. 34° 13.447′ N, 118° 3.781′ W. Marker is near Pasadena, California, in Los Angeles County. Marker is on Mt. Wilson Road, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is just inside the fenced-off complex of television and radio antennas, just before you get to the main parking lot on Mount Wilson. Marker is in this post office area: Pasadena CA 91107, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 8 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Benjamin Davis Wilson (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Michelson Pier on Mount Wilson (approx. 0.3 miles away); Christmas Tree Lane (approx. 5.1 miles away); Santa Anita During World War II (approx. 6 miles away); Seabiscuit (approx. 6 miles away); Pacific Asia Museum (approx. 7 miles away); Pasadena Robinson Memorial (approx. 7.1 miles away); Pasadena Public Library (approx. 7.1 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Pasadena.
Regarding Harvardís Mount Wilson Station. During the late 19th century, barely a trail existed
Wider View Looking Southeast image. Click for full size.
By Roger W. Sinnott, June 5, 2012
2. Wider View Looking Southeast
The plaque can be seen just inside the chain-link fence at extreme right. On the road ahead is the main parking lot serving the summit of Mount Wilson.
up Wilsonís Peak, the 5,700-foot mountain overlooking Pasadena and Los Angeles, California. Getting up or down was a five-hour trek for hikers and mules. Nevertheless, Edward Pickering, director of Harvard College Observatory, decided to see if the mountain would make a good site for an astronomical observatory. He sent his brother William (who was also an astronomer) and Alvan G. Clark, of the noted telescope-making firm Alvan Clark & Sons, to spend the night of January 23, 1889, at the summit. Following their favorable report, in May 1889 Harvard set up a 13-inch photographic telescope there, and during the next year and a half this instrument provided fine photographs of Moon, planets, Orion Nebula, and star clusters on just about every clear night.

Although Pickering failed in his efforts to secure permanent title to the land for Harvard, the short-lived station proved that Wilsonís Peak had the frequent clear skies and air quality needed for serious astronomical work. In commemoration, Pickering erected this brass plaque in 1910. In a sense, the pioneering station had paved the way for George Ellery Hale, with funding from Andrew Carnegie, to establish the far more famous Mount Wilson Observatory that is still in operation at the summit.

Much of the above information is adapted from the histories of Harvard Observatory by S. I. Bailey (1931) and by
Site of Harvard Station Today image. Click for full size.
By Roger W. Sinnott, June 5, 2012
3. Site of Harvard Station Today
Giant radio and TV towers mark the location of the old Harvard astronomical station on Mount Wilson today. In the foreground, members of the Antique Telescope Society gathered to observe the transit of Venus across the disk of the Sun on June 5, 2012. This is the only transit of Venus ever observed from Mount Wilson, because the one in 2004 was best seen from Europe, Africa, or Asia, and in 1882 (the next Venus transit before that) Mount Wilson was wilderness.
B. Z. Jones and L. G. Boyd (1971).

Categories. Science & Medicine
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on July 8, 2012, by Roger W. Sinnott of Chelmsford, Massachusetts. This page has been viewed 507 times since then and 28 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on July 8, 2012, by Roger W. Sinnott of Chelmsford, Massachusetts. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.
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