Telescopes from the Ground Up

Dream come true

Hale watched the glass disk arrive in California, and experienced the awe of realizing that just the hole in the center of this gigantic glass disk was the same size as the lens of his first great project, the 40-inch Yerkes refractor. “No other scale gauge could be more striking to me, as I recall so vividly the arrival of the 40-inch objective [the primary mirror] at Yerkes Observatory in 1897,” he wrote.

All the telescope parts, except for the mirror, were ready by 1941, as was the dome to house the telescope. But then the United States entered World War II. Work on the glass disk came to a halt while industry focused its attention on war-related work. It had to be stored away, and it wasn’t until 1947 that the glass disk was finally transformed into a mirror and placed in the telescope. The mirror was coated with aluminum — a material that, unlike silver, does not tarnish. Every now and then, however, the mirror needs to be re-coated to keep it shiny.

Hale would never see the finished reflector. He died in 1938. In honor of his endless work, patient leadership, and dedicated vision, this powerful telescope, still used today, bears his name.

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Huge Reflectors


Image of George ellery Hale operating a telescope.
George Ellery Hale
George Ellery Hale:
The champion of huge reflectors
Read about him