When World War Number Two started my Army
Unit was dispatched to the Los Angles Area to supplement the Anti-Aircraft
defenses of that city and surrounding area.
I was assigned to install several Radar Stations in the local
expanse. One operation was to erect a Unit at Mount Wilson. With
a small crew I picked up the equipment and started out for that
location, after a false start into Pasadena. Remember that the war
had just started, in their apprehension of an impending Japanese
invasion, the had removed many street signs and directional signs
in the surrounding territory. This was just what a young soldier
from New Jersey needed, his first time in California. After directions
were obtained from a local gas station attendant we were on our
way to the designated site.
Thru the city to La Canada and the Angles Crest Highway, a right
turn and we are on a road cut into the side of the mountains to
Mount Wilson. We set up in the parking lot of the Observatory, all
goes well and the installation begins. In due time the set is up
and running, calibrated and ready for operation. It is now my job
to train a crew in manning the equipment. All is functioning well
and I have some free time.
Always having an interest in astronomy I took a leisurely walk
around the Mount Wilson Observatory grounds. Looking over the many
buildings that comprise the installation. While on my stroll a gentleman
approached me and asked if I had any interest in astronomy. I told
him that I knew about Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, Cassiopeia's Chair
and the constellation Orion. He then realized that I knew a little
bit about the heavens. With that he asked if I was interested in
seeing the workings of the 100 in. telescope and other facilities
on the grounds. My answer was yes and came
quickly. We then arranged a meeting the next day.
Promptly the next day at twelve 0-clock I met him. As we walked
he explained the travails that beset those that built the first
structures on top of the mountain. A toll road was constructed to
the crest of the hill. All material used in the building of the
plant was hauled to the summit by mule cart, and this included the
mirrors used in the 60 and 100 in telescopes.
On entering the vast domed temple of celestial knowledge that
housed the largest telescope in the world, he explained the workings
of the machinery that controlled the dome, shutters and the huge
optical instrument itself. To over come standing inertia 10 Horse
Power motors were used to get the dome moving, once in motion it
only required 1/10 HP. All functions were controlled by a console,
somewhat like those in a modern TV studio, but not
quite elaborate. He demonstrated to me what each lever, switch and
button accomplished, opening the shutter doors, pointing the scope
in the direction of a particular galaxy.
It was all done in sidereal time (pertaining to the movements
of the stars and other heavenly bodies) to keep the mirror on that
celestial object. You don't look through this giant instrument,
everything is recorded on film. Some of these sessions lasted many
hours, often all night long. After that we visited the sixty inch
telescope and then on to the 150 foot solar tower, in a room below
the ground the image of the sun is projected on a large white
paper and the sunspots waves were plotted by hand. All in all a
mind boggling experience for a youth from Down Neck.
Now to who my mentor was, a renowned person in cosmology an astrophysics
great and the originator of the Big Bang Theory. One of the fathers
of astronomy, an orbiting space telescope is named for him.
It was the renowned Dr. Edwin Hubble-Astrophysicist par excellence.