16th Annual Open House Celebrates our Past, Present, and Future

schedule 1 minute
Astronomy & Cosmology
An overview of the annual Carnegie Observatories Open House festivities.
Attendees pose on the "red-shift carpet" at the Carnegie Observatories Open House.

On Sunday, October 15th, we held our 16th annual open house at The Observatories. This year over 60 volunteers from Carnegie, GMTO, Caltech, JPL, and more helped make the event a big success! We welcomed nearly 1,000 guests to our campus between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to learn about the past, present, and future of The Observatories through a variety of activities, displays, and talks.

John Mulchaey and Beverly Fink Greeting Open House Guests

At our open house this year the theme was Then and Now: Celebrating the Past, Present and Future of The Observatories. This year was the 100th anniversary of the 100-inch Hooker telescope at Mt. Wilson, and we used this as an opportunity to reflect on the amazing discoveries that have been and continue to be made by Carnegie astronomers.

Cindy Hunt and Alex Ji were gave excellent talks in our auditorium this year, linking past and present. Cindy’s talk focused on the history made by Carnegie astronomers at Mt. Wilson and, with an eye towards the 100-inch telescope centennial celebration and Alex’s talk was a presentation of our understanding of stellar populations from past to present and what we still have to learn.

Guests watch speakers at the open house in the foyer of our auditorium

In the hallways of the Hunt building Staff Astronomer Gwen Rudie curated displays about the telescopes that our astronomers have used at Mt. Wilson and Palomar, and continue to use at Las Campanas Observatory. Displays included information about the telescopes as well as key discoveries made with each telescope.

Guests view informative displays about Carnegie Astronomy telescopes past present and future

We premiered a spectacular new addition at our open house: the Moon Globe. This unique piece is a hand-blown spherical glass ball with an image of the moon in two different phases captured on each side. It was created at Mt. Wilson in the early 20th century.

The Moon Globe spherical plate illuminated in the Hale Library

In our Hale Library we also shared a display connecting the past and present of scientific data. Cindy Hunt paired photographic plates from our collection focusing on a range of aspects from the cosmos with modern astronomical images captured with digital detectors on ground and space-based telescopes.

Guests view the glass Plate and modern image display in the Hale Library

Another addition this year was our new inflatable planetarium. Made possible with a generous grant from the Pasadena Community Foundation, we plan to take this planetarium into the classrooms, libraries, and neighborhoods in Pasadena and beyond. It arrived just in time for our open house and we were able to share seven short shows with nearly 200 guests during our open house, all hosted by Chris Burns.

Our redshift carpet was back and popular as ever again this year with a new design created by Robin Dienel. This beautiful image connects the past and present of our Universe, showing cosmic time from the Big Bang to today.

A couple has their picture taken on our redshift carpet

Rachael Beaton led several short presentations about Las Campanas Observatories in our conference room. We shared live images of Las Campanas and its telescopes throughout the open house and guests learned about how modern observers carry out their observing runs.

Astronomer Rachael Beaton explains Las Campanas Observatory to guests

The shop had several displays run by Vince Kowal, Robert Storts and Greg Ortiz. Our Galilean cannon was back, and this year a few hundred guests received a cool souvenir made with the newest machine in the shop, a mill lathe. Guests also had a chance to learn about spectroscopy again this year with an updated display led by Thomas Connor.

Close up of souvenir top manufactured in the shop

Astronomer Tom Connor explains spectroscopy to guests

There were several kid-friendly activities at our open house this year including an updated passport book, constellation making, an Infrared Camera from our friends at IPAC/Caltech, and a viewing of the sun provided by volunteers from the Mt. Wilson Instituteas well as a chance for ice cream!

Children create their own constellations

A guests compares different metals

A number of volunteers from the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization were on hand to help out with our activities and to share a display about the future telescope at Las Campanas:

Amanda Kocz from the GMTO presents a video about the GMT

Children color in their own GMT

Finally, our Ask an Astronomer table was as popular as ever as kids and adults took the opportunity to ask about black holes, exoplanets, extraterrestrials and more!

Astronomers answer questions at the Ask an Astronomer table

Photos thanks to Marja Seidel, Johanna Teske, Natasha Metzler, and Cindy Hunt