Oh no! Mt. Wilson Observatory in significant fire danger

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silylene

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Oh no ! The historic and famous astronomical observatory founded by Edward Hale is under a very significant threat right now. the 100" Hooker scope and the Vargas array are still in very active scientific use.



Station Fire Could Reach Mount Wilson Observatory
By Dan Sanchez
Epoch Times Staff Aug 30, 2009
http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/content/view/21805/

Fires burning near Mount Wilson at 10:30 p.m. PST Aug. 20. (Dan Sanchez/The Epoch Times)
PASADENA, Calif. —A Station fire on the east flank above Pasadena is threatening the Mount Wilson Observatory, a well known historic landmark just north of Pasadena in the San Gabriel foothills.


Fire officials are predicting the fire will possibly reach Mount Wilson tonight or early Monday morning. Many broadcast and communications towers and systems used by television and radio stations are also located there in addition to the century-old observatory.

The observatory was evacuated Saturday, leaving the historic and scientifically important facility in the care of firefighters. They cleared brush around Mount Wilson to keep flames from damaging the buildings and equipment.


A recent aerial view of the Mt. Wilson Observatory complex, looking north-east. In the lower-left are the 60-foot and 150-foot solar tower telescopes. Directly below the 60-foot tower is the horizontal Snow solar telescope. The dome for the 60-inch telescope is to the right of center, and the dome for the 100-inch Hooker telescope is near the top-center. Below the 60-inch dome is the small white dome housing the 16-inch Meade telescope. Directly north of the 100-inch dome is the long beam-combining building for the CHARA interferometer. Five of the six small silvery CHARA domes, each housing a 40-inch telescope, can also be seen. To the right in the picture is the Berkeley infrared interferometer. This photograph is by Norm Vargas, a 60-inch telescope operator.
 
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silylene

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More on the fire:

Flames Inch Toward TV Towers on Mt. Wilson
by Deborah D. McAdams, August 31, 2009
http://www.televisionbroadcast.com/article/86266


LOS ANGELES: Hundreds of firefighters prepared for a shift change at 6 a.m. today as flames inched up the side of Mt. Wilson, where virtually all of the city’s television transmitters are located. The fire had moved 1.5 miles up the mountain in 24 hours, and was estimated to be less than half a mile from the mountaintop early this morning. .....
A Forest Service official told the Pasadena Star-News that “it’s not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s a matter of when,” the flames reached the transmitters. He said they were “truly in jeopardy.”

In the accompannying map, Mt. Wilson is represented by the small orange trianble at the lower right corner of the fire perimeter, illustrated in red, with arrows indicating the direction of the fire. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is represented by the green building icon with the small flag. The small flame icon to the right represents the Morris Fire.


interactive map here: http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/michael-jackson/la-me-la-fire-map-html,0,5945812.htmlstory
 
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silylene

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Historic Mt. Wilson Observatory May Survive Station Fire!
http://www.theskichannel.com/news/skinews/20090831/Historic-Mt-Wilson-Observatory-May-Survive-Station-Fire



Just as its headstone was being carved out, it appears the incredible work of firefighters may save the historic Mt. Wilson Observatory. Fire crews have been clearing brush around the observatory for days. Along with the heavy use of fire retardant, the 100-year-old structure has been given a fighting chance to survive!

Inspector Edward Osorio of the LA County Fire Department said, "At this point, I don't think it suffered any serious damage. We'll probably get some flare-ups or threatening flame activity, but we don't think it's going to be a major problem."
 
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MeteorWayne

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When you look at how many trees and how much brush is close to the observatory, it's a miracle.

Those smokeaters must have busted their tail and deserve the thanx of the entire astronomical community.

MW
 
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crazyeddie

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MeteorWayne":rxjgvjxo said:
When you look at how many trees and how much brush is close to the observatory, it's a miracle.

Those smokeaters must have busted their tail and deserve the thanx of the entire astronomical community.

MW
Wow, that's very different from Mt. Palomar. The 200-inch Hale telescope there is surrounded by a comparatively treeless clearing:

 
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MeteorWayne

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doublehelix":lvptfz7c said:
http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-322196#

Time lapse footage of the Station Fire in Los Angeles 8/27/09 to 8/30/09. Taken from the Mount Wilson Observatory towercam.
Wow! Great find dh. Fascinating!!
 
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silylene

Guest
Danger comes back !

Keep your fingers crossed: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090901/ts_nm/us_california_wildfires_137
BATTLE FOR A MOUNTAINTOP

Fire crews fought to protect the slopes around the 5,700-foot (1,740-meter) peak of Mount Wilson, home to 50 buildings plus a famous array of telescopes and a critical cluster of transmission towers for broadcasters.

After dousing the area in fire retardant and laboring to clear brush away from structures on the site, they fell back early on Monday to avoid flames expected to sweep the summit.

"They've done everything they can do and it's unsafe for them to be there when the fire hits," Los Angeles County Fire Captain Mark Whaling said.

Elsewhere in the forest, 65 firefighters retreated from a wall of flames advancing on their positions, he said.

 
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doublehelix

Guest
MeteorWayne":1nzm9eah said:
doublehelix":1nzm9eah said:
http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-322196#

Time lapse footage of the Station Fire in Los Angeles 8/27/09 to 8/30/09. Taken from the Mount Wilson Observatory towercam.
Wow! Great find dh. Fascinating!!
I also find it fascinating... and chilling at the same time. I lived in SoCal for many years, and have seen my share of fires, and that timelapse brings back a lot of memories. I was in the Ventura area in the 1980s and in 1985 there was the Wheeler fire over in Ojai. Scary to see all that smoke and the flames, and ash, not to mention the difficult time breathing at times. This fire season in LA seems pretty nasty, though when you get down to it, they all suck.

-dh
 
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3488

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Apparently NASA's JPL was closed to all 'non essential' staff for a few days due to the poor air quality in the area due to the fires near Los Angeles.

JPL has reopened but are keeping an eye on the situation.

Planetary Society article about JPL & Mt Wilson Observatory situation regarding the fires.

Any ideas as to what caused them? Arson, careless cigarette thrown from a car, bus, train, etc?

Andrew Brown.
 
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TC_sc

Guest
The thought of losing those telescopes was horrible. It looks like now that they might be safe. This is a good example that California needs to change those laws that prevents land owners from cutting trees and clearing underbrush. They need to do something to prevent this from happening in the future. We can't risk losing treasures like this due to insane laws.
 
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doublehelix

Guest
From a friend of mine via Facebook:

Mt. Wilson blog being run off the Georgia State Univ. website -- a blow-by-blow of what's been happening there. Firefighters confident they'll save it (with 750,000 gallons of water available, I would hope so):

http://www.chara.gsu.edu/CHARA/fire.php

Here's the latest entry:

Wednesday, 2 Sep 09, 9:19 am PDT - The situation on the mountain remains stable with very good prospects. No more backfires were set last evening, so only the long defensive backfire on the northerm perimeter was lit. Additional backfires on the east and south slopes will be set only if deemed necessary. Heavy man and equipment power remains on the mountain and will stay there until, hopefully, an all clear is given. If and when that happens remains uncertain, of course.

Tim Rutten has a wonderful opinion piece (warning: .pdf) in this morning's Los Angeles Times.
 
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silylene

Guest
This thread is now on the front page of space.com ....

i just checked, the fire has not reached the top of Mt. Wilson, but the threat remains significant.
 
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doublehelix

Guest
I hope they are successful in keeping the fire from destroying everything. It would be devastating in so many ways if things burned down.

-dh
 
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doublehelix

Guest
MeteorWayne":3lpwdod8 said:
Oh Noes!!!
I always read this instead of "Oh no!" when I glance at the title. :lol:

A friend of mine in Santa Clarita says it's raining ash. Wow...

-dh
 
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silylene

Guest
A few recent entries from this wonderful blog on the Mt. Wilson Observatory Fire (thnx Andrew for the link): http://www.chara.gsu.edu/CHARA/fire.php

Tuesday, 1 Sep 09, 7:21 pm PDT - Much to report! I just got off the phone calling Larry Webster's office on the mountain hoping to confirm his arrival. Instead of Larry, the phone was answered by LA County Deputy Fire Chief Jim Powers who is in charge of protection for structures at the Observatory. Wow, do I feel much better. First, Larry, Dave Jurasevich and John Harrigan arrived safely on site. When I identified myself, Chief Powers asked if I would like a briefing. You can imagine my answer. Here's what I know.

Fire fighters arrived earlier than I previously reported and by 8:00 am they had started their prep work. They began at the northeast corner of the Observatory using drip torches all along a line from that point traversing the northern perimeter to the boundary of the antenna areas. They are currently applying the same treatment to the east and southern boundaries of the site and expect to complete that this evening. These fires will clear ground debris and burn down slope with the intention of meeting any approaching fire with depleted fuel. Many of you watched the Super Scooper drop a major load of water, which was deposited downslope from the backfires and not on the Observatory grounds. That has been supplemented by other aerial tankers and helitankers for more precision dropping at crucial locations. The goal is to slow down encroaching fire, disperse it and make it more manageable.

Chief Powers expressed his absolute confidence that they will save the Observatory. He said that while it may have appeared over the last day or so that the Observatory was being neglected, that they never lost sight of the importance of Mount Wilson's preservation and it is now their highest priority. He flew up to the mountain yesterday, was delighted with what he found and knew they could achieve success here. There are now 150 fire fighters on Mount Wilson. Not only are the crews from Calaveras County (Cal Fire) back up there, but there are Los Angeles County fire fighters and even a crew from Helena, Montana. They have eight engines equipped to spray fire retardant on structures in addition to the crew engines. Chief Powers told me this army of fire fighters is "not going anywhere. They are very hard working and talented people who will get the job done."

After this uplifting briefing from Chief Powers, Dave called me from the CHARA conference room where he will be bunking down for the night. He filled in with some other information he'd learnd from the Chief prior to my own briefing.

The fire is slowly coming up to the mountaintop through the canyon containing the remnants of the old Strain's Camp. Mountain water wells are located above the old tourist camping site. They are also anticipated as coming up the steep eastern canyon located between the Berkeley ISI facility and the CHARA machine shop - due east of the 100-inch telescope. The back fires will burn all the way down this canyon to disable this approach. Dave reported seeing fire on the way up at Eaton Saddle down towards Camp High Hill.

There is no structural damage on the mountain. A short in a pull box produce by old flimsy splicing was compromised by the back fires and power lost to the high pressure fire pump system. (We have also obviously lost our internet connection to the mountain.) John Harrigan and Larry Webster were shopping at "Mount Wilson Depot" - the electrical storage area in the 100-inch telescope building - for materials to construct a new power line to the fire pump building. This should present no difficulties at all for those guys.

Our facility is in great shape for defensibility and in the hands of a group of enthusiastic, highly experienced and absolutely devoted fire fighters. I want to acknowledge my predecessor Bob Jastrow for initiating a brush clearing program that we have continued, and I thank folks like the W. M. Keck Foundation for helping us a few years ago with funding for that activity. Chief Powers assured me that there is never a need to fully evacuate our site and it is essential that we leave knowledgeable personnel on site to assist them and ensure that our fire fighting and support infrastructure is functional. "They are as essential to your protection as smoke alarms," Chief Powers said. That makes me feel so much better about letting Dave, Larry and John go back on site.

Hearing the absolute confidence and expertise in Chief Powers' voice has given me great optimism for, what the Chief said himself, would be "another hundred years for Mount Wilson Observatory."

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wednesday, 2 Sep 09, 5:56 am PDT - A briefing by Incident Commander Dietrich is underway as I write this. He reported that Mount Wilson "is still in good shape" and described their difficulties in communication on the site due to the intense radio frequency interference emanating from the broadcast facilities on the mountain. The Super Scooper dropped 7500 gallons of fire retardant gell yesterday.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Wednesday, 2 Sep 09, noon PDT - There is a great deal of interest in the UCLA Towercam on Mount Wilson, in particular as to when it might be returned to service. All internet connectivity to the Observatory was lost in the back fire setting process yesterday. Yet another lesson we've learned is not to use fiber glass pull boxes. The burning of ground cover melted the lid on one of the few boxes of that type we have on the mountain and then destroyed telephone lines and lines carrying our T1 Internet signals. We don't know when the Internet connection will be restored, but it is likely to be out for a number of days. This disappoints many people, not the least of whom is me, who have relied on those images as their eyes on Mount Wilson.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wednesday, 2 Sep 09, 9:19 am PDT - The situation on the mountain remains stable with very good prospects. No more backfires were set last evening, so only the long defensive backfire on the northerm perimeter was lit. Additional backfires on the east and south slopes will be set only if deemed necessary. Heavy man and equipment power remains on the mountain and will stay there until, hopefully, an all clear is given. If and when that happens remains uncertain, of course.
 
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3488

Guest
Indeed, thanks silylene for the fresh update.

I suppose it's too late now to clear a circle around the observatory of potentially flammable vegetation, with the ash, smoke & fumes coming up the mountain???

What's really needed is a pyrocumulus cloud to form ( for those who are not familiar, they are cumulus clouds that form from ash particles & water condenses around the particle as a nucleus) & it rains from them, either putting the fire out or at least weakening the fires, so the fire fighters have a better chance.

I suppose the humidity is too low & atmospheric pressure is too high for that to happen???????

Andrew Brown.
 
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