Conference - First Light: The Astronomy Century in California, 1917-2017

Conference - First Light: The Astronomy Century in California, 1917-2017
Nov 17 - 18 , 2017

Friday–Saturday, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.

Jointly presented by The Huntington and Carnegie Observatories, this conference marks the centennial of the completion of the 100-inch Hooker telescope on Mount Wilson, which saw “first light” in November 1917 and heralded the dawn of modern astronomy. Historians, scientists, and others will explore the influence of big telescopes, the significance of discoveries at Mount Wilson, the gendered nature of astronomy, and other related issues in the history of Southern California as an arena for space exploration. $25. Register online. Rothenberg Hall


Conference Schedule



8:15 a.m. - Registration & Coffee


9:00 a.m. - Welcome: Steve Hindle (The Huntington)

Remarks: Daniel Lewis (The Huntington)


9:15 a.m. - Session 1: Telescopes Past and Future

Moderator: John Mulchaey (Carnegie Observatories)


Alan Dressler (Carnegie Observatories)

“Eyes on the Universe: Inventing the Telescope”


Patrick McCray (University of California, Santa Barbara)

“When Astronomical Ambitions Met California Skies”


10:45 a.m. - Break


11:00 a.m. - Session 2: Collaborations: Building Science across Boundaries

Moderator: Daniel Lewis


Barbara Becker (University of California, Irvine)

“William Huggins and George Ellery Hale: Stalking the Secrets of the Sun”


John Mulchaey

“Astronomy in a Connected World”


12:30 p.m. - Lunch


1:30 p.m. - Session 3: Staring Into the Suns

Moderator: John Mulchaey


Jay Pasachoff (Williams College)

“Studying Sunshine from Pasadena and Mount Wilson”


Jennifer van Saders (University of Hawaii)

“Sounds and Spots: Kepler’s Eye on the Stars”


3:00 p.m. - Break


3:15 p.m. - Session 4: Taking the Measurement of the Stars

Moderator: Daniel Lewis


David DeVorkin (National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian)

“Hale’s Mount Wilson as a ‘Physicist’s Testbench’”


Harold McAlister (Georgia State University)

“Optical Interferometry: Ensuring Mount Wilson’s Second Century of Science”




9:00 a.m. - Registration & Coffee


9:30 a.m. - Session 5: It’s Elemental

Moderator: John Mulchaey


Ronald Brashear (Chemical Heritage Foundation)

“The Observatory as Laboratory: Spectral Analysis at Mount Wilson Observatory”


Andrew McWilliam (Carnegie Observatories)

“Origin of the Elements and Galactic Archaeology”


11:00 a.m. - “Beautiful Science” exhibit tour by Daniel Lewis


12 p.m. - Lunch


1:00 p.m. - Session 6: VAR!: Hale, Shapley, Hubble–and Beyond

Moderator: Daniel Lewis


Marcia Bartusiak (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

“How the 100-Inch and a Variable Star Revealed Our Modern Universe”


Guillermo Blanc (Las Campanas Observatory, Carnegie Observatories)

“From VAR! to the Edge of the Universe”


2:30 p.m. - Break


2:45 p.m. - Session 7: Faster Than Ever: The Accelerating Universe

Moderator: John Mulchaey


Bryan Penprase (Soka University of America)

“Horizons: Conceptions of Cosmology from a Multi-Cultural Perspective”


Wendy Freedman (University of Chicago)

“Hubble’s Expanding Legacy: Our Unexpected Universe”


4:15 p.m. - Concluding Remarks

Daniel Lewis and John Mulchaey

About The Huntington

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution established in 1919 by Henry E. and Arabella Huntington. Henry Huntington, a key figure in the...

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