Mount Wilson Road closed today at 6 a.m. after U.S. Forest Service authorities determined that the roaring fires could reach the mountain’s peak. Several radio towers for local broadcast outlets, as well as the historic Mt. Wilson Observatory, sit atop the 5,710-foot peak. The fate of the over-a-century-old facility is uncertain, but the importance of the observatory is undeniable. Designed by turn of the 19th century astronomer George Hale, who coined the term “astrophysics,” the Observatory realigned the way people viewed mankind as it related to the universe. Like the heliocentric model of Copernicus, which obliterated the concept of an Earth-centered universe, Hale’s experiments opened up the aperture on a more complex existence, where humans were perhaps as insignificant as tiny stars adrift in night sky. For some, astronomy struck at the heart of religion, while for others, gazing starward offered an ultimate advance in the search for God. The Museum of Jurassic Technology displays the epistemological questions, theories of God’s location, and Martian dreams sent on hotel stationery, postcards, and sloppily typed letters to Hale and the astronomers of the Observatory in the exhibit, No One May Ever Have The Same Knowledge Again: Letters to Mount Wilson Observatory.
As early as 1911, the astronomers at Mount Wilson began receiving letters from people all around the world, people from all walks of life, educated as well as uneducated. Many of the letters were simple expressions of appreciation and awe for the work that the astronomers were accomplishing. There was, however, another class of letter. These letters were communications to the astronomers by individuals who felt, often with a great degree of earnestness, that they were in possession of understandings or information that should be shared with the astronomers.
The information contained in this class of letter was typically of astronomical or cosmological concern. These individuals had gleaned the information they wished to communicate either by experimentation, observation or intuition and invariably felt a strong sense of urgency in their need to communicate their observations to the observers at Mount Wilson. (From The Museum of Jurassic Technology site)
To experience the wide breadth of opinions, suggestions, and serious quakery that the Observatory spawned, please visit the Museum of Jurassic Technology. But until then, take a look at these samples and click on the captions for full text of the letters: