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The Scientist Who Explored the Skies

MT. PALOMAR – Visiting the Palomar observatory in the forested mountains northeast of San Diego is a bit like finding oneself at the foot of one of the great pyramids of Egypt. The scale is so intimidating, so outsized compared to its surroundings, that you are struck by the feeling that those who created this thing were grander and more daring than we are today. For nearly fifty years in the second half of the 20th century, the famous “Big Eye” dominated worldwide astronomical research and discovery. Virtually everything we know about the universe today was either proved or hinted at by the images captured in the giant 200-inch mirror, which was such an engineering marvel that curiosity-seekers crowded the tracks to see it pass by on its journey from the Corning Glass Works in New York to Southern California. The ambition of its builder, George Ellery Hale, who famously said, “Make no small plans, Dream no small dreams,” is in every detail. The Art Deco dome is “as tall as the Roman Pantheon,” said

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