AAS 205th Meeting, 9-13 January 2005
Session 1 HAD I: Centennial Celebration of the Founding of Mount Wilson Observatory
Special Session, Sunday, January 9, 2005, 2:00-5:00pm, Sunrise

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[1.04] Mount Wilson Staff Reaction to Light Pollution

G. W. Preston (Carnegie Observatories)

By 1950 Mount Wilson astronomers had come to accept light pollution by Los Angeles and its environs as inevitable. Those concerned with measurements of faint objects transferred their research to Caltech's Palomar Observatory (see, for example, Baade 1948) under the terms of an agreement between Carnegie and Caltech. Others took advantage of reduced pressure on the Mount Wilson telescopes to undertake major scientific programs that could tolerate the Los Angeles sky (Arp 1956, Sandage & Kowal 1986, Sandage & Fouts 1987, Vaughan & Preston 1980, Wilson 1974). However, these adjustments in style produced no remedy for the progressive deterioration that accompanied advancing age of the Mount Wilson facilities and lack of investment at a polluted site. The accelerating imbalance in demand for the Mount Wilson and Palomar facilities began to weigh on the Carnegie-Caltech joint operation. In the 1960's Carnegie attempted to redress the imbalance by developing a dark-sky site at Las Campanas, Chile, but the telescopes (1.0-m, 2.5-m) it could provide in the 1970's failed to arouse sufficient interest among Caltech astronomers, who opted to discontinue joint operation of the Carnegie and Caltech observatories in 1980. To fulfill its own need for a large telescope at a dark site Carnegie withdrew from the Mount Wilson operation in 1985, redirecting all of its resources to Las Campanas, and soon thereafter organized the Magellan Consortium that built and now operate two superb 6.5-m telescopes at the Las Campanas Observatory. This outcome is the legacy of Los Angeles lights.

Arp, H. C. 1956, AJ, 61, 15 Baade, W. 1948, PASP, 60, 230 Sandage, A. R., & Kowal, C. 1986, AJ, 91, 1140 Sandage, A. R., & Fouts, G. 1987, AJ, 93, 74 Vaughan, A. H., & Preston, G. W. 1980, PASP, 92, 385 Wilson, O. C. 1978, ApJ, 226, 379

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