Fire at Mount Wilson Observatory – some positive news?

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Captured screen of the interactive LA Times map. The "volcano' on the bottom-right indicates the position of the Mount Wilson. The fire seems to have stopped it progression toward the observatory.

Captured screen of the interactive LA Times map. The "volcano" on thebottom right of the affected area corresponds to the position of Mount Wilson.


Apparently the Mount Wilson Observatory survived the night. The web cam is still active and this morning did not show any damages on the mountain.  The director posted a very positive message on its blog as well [update: the blog was relocated at 6pm here].The situation remains still uncertain since the wild fire is very close to the top of the mountain as you can see on the web cam image taken at 12:40pm and on the LA times map attached here.

Capture screen taken at 12:40pm today. The smoke is very dense and thus the wild fire is very close.

Capture screen taken at 12:40pm today. The smoke is very dense and thus the wild fire is very close.

Let’s hope the good news will remain like this. It  has been a roller coaster of emotions for a lot of people over there.

Clarification (from a comment that I received yesterday): I do not work at the MWO. I am  a planetary astronomer who uses facilities around the world, mostly the Keck telescope,  VLT and Gemini telescopes, but also mid-sized telescopes available at Lick observatory (e.g. Shane Telescope) and Kitt Peak observatory (e.g. super-Lotis) and elsewhere. In fact, I never used any instruments of the MWO, but I am planning to :-) I do care about this observatory because it contains historical heritages (the Hale-60in and Hooker-100in telescopes  for instance), state-to-the-art instruments (CHARA, AO in visible), and a lot of my colleagues depend on this observatory to conduct their research. The astronomy community is like a small family and the observers are even a tinier part of it. The loss of facilities will affect all of us and what is happening at Mount Wilson could also happen at Mount Hamilton.

Positive thoughts… and clear skies back!

Franck M.

UPDATES at 1:17pm: Just when I was writing this post the fire indeed reached the mountain top but it is for the moment  weak. KTLA has a live stream of the situation. I am attaching a few snapshot showing the observatory (at 1:17pm). No apparent damage so far but it is difficult to assess them due to the dense smoke.

About Franck Marchis

Dr. Franck Marchis is a Senior Researcher and Chair of the Exoplanet Group at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute since July 2007. Over the past 19 years, he has dedicated his research to the study of our solar system, specifically the search for asteroids with moons, using mainly ground-based telescopes equipped with adaptive optics. More recently, he has been also involved in the definition of new generation of AOs for 8 -10 m class telescopes and future Extremely Large Telescopes. He has developed algorithms to process and enhance the quality of images, both astronomical and biological. His currently involved in the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey, which consists in imaging exoplanets using an extreme AO system for the Gemini South telescope. This new instrument is capable of imaging and recording spectra of young Jupiter-like exoplanets orbiting around nearby stars.

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