Ten great observatories in the West: Mt. WIlson in Southern California
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Great observatories in the West

Mount Wilson Observatory

This working observatory at the summit of Mount Wilson in the San Gabriel Mountains is home to one of the world’s largest telescopes accessible to the public.

Check out the view from the Mount Wilson Observatory at 5,700 feet in elevation.

Visitors can tour the observatory every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from April 1 to Nov. 30.

The Mount Wilson Observatory, shown here in 1916, opened in 1904 under the direction of founder George Ellery Hale. (W.A. Hughes)
Mount Wilson Observatory

Although visitors can tour the observatory on a daily basis from April 1 to Nov. 30, you must make a reservation and pay a fee in order to peek through the 60-inch reflecting telescope (measured by the diameter of the mirror that reflects the light from the stars to an eyepiece).

Groups no bigger than 25 can reserve the telescope from dawn to 1 a.m. at a cost of $800, or from dawn to dusk for $1,500.

For more details, call (626) 440-9016 or go to the observatory’s website.

Visitors line up at the observatory, which houses a 60-inch telescope to gaze at the planets. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Mount Graham International Observatory

Eastern Arizona College operates a visitor’s center called the Discovery Park near the observatory in Safford, Ariz.

Among the features is a 20-inch reflecting telescope and several exhibits explaining the origins of our universe.

The Discovery Park operates from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but the telescope is only open for public viewing on Saturday evenings, 4 to 10 p.m.

For more details, call (928) 428-6260 or go to the website.

A worker walks between the two 8.4-meter mirrors at the Large Binocular Telescope atop Mount Graham. (Jeffry Scott / Associated Press)
Mount Graham International Observatory

The Discovery Park website describes the site as an “education and entertainment retreat” that focuses on the science and culture of the Gila Valley.

For more details, call (928) 428-6260.

The Large Binocular Telescope Observatory near the summit of Mount Graham , near the town of Safford, Ariz. (David S. Steele / Associated Press)
Kitt Peak Observatory

Kitt Peak Observatory claims to hold the largest collection of research telescopes in the world.

Visitors are only allowed to look through three of those telescopes: a 20-inch and two 16-inch reflecting telescopes.

The program operates nightly, except from July 15 through Sept. 1. Fees: $39 for adults $34 for students, seniors and those in the military.

For reservations, call (520) 318-8726 or go to the website.

The image of the Horsehead Nebula in Orion was taken with the 0.9-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory. (Kitt Peak National Observatory)
Griffith Park Observatory

The Los Angeles observatory offers free public access to the Zeiss, a 12-inch refracting telescope that’s believed to be the most-used telescope in the world.

Since the telescope was installed in 1935, more than 7 million people have looked through the Zeiss.

For more details, call (213) 473-0800 or go to the website. Also, check out the Sky Report to find out what’s up there to see.

Amateur astronomer Rob Komoto readies his telescope at the Griffith Park Observatory in hopes of catching a total eclipse of the moon -- something that won’t happen again until 2010. (Richard Vogel / Associated Press)
Lowell Observatory

The Lowell Observatory near downtown Flagstaff, Ariz., is one of the oldest of its kind in the nation. The Alvan Clark 24-inch refracting telescope is so powerful that it was used at the turn of the century to look for life on Mars.

The public viewing program runs from June through August, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Fees: $6 for adults and $3 for youngsters.

For more details, call (928) 774-3358 or go to the website.

Pluto Dome is part of the Lowell Observatory. Pluto was discovered there in 1930. (Matt York / Associated Press)