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Mt. Wilson Observatory Is Reopening To Public After 'Near-Death Experience' With Bobcat Fire

A large plume of smoke rises from mountains as the Bobcat Fire advances on Mount Wilson on Sept. 6, 2020 . The observatory's dome is seen on the far left.
This image of the Bobcat Fire advancing on Mount Wilson on Sept. 6, 2020 was displayed live on the internet via the HPWren Fire Alert Camera mounted high on a solar telescope.
( HPWren Fire Alert Cam at Mount Wilson)
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It's been a rough year for the Mount Wilson Observatory.

First, the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to shut its doors to the public last spring.

Then, in September, flames from the massive Bobcat Fire came within just a few feet of the station, and threatened to destroy its historic array of telescopes and other astronomy equipment. A crowdfunding campaign was later launched to help repair damage.

Next Tuesday, the legendary observatory, which was founded in 1904, is making a comeback — and will reopen its gates to the public.

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Sam Hale, chairman of the observatory's board of trustees, said volunteers have been working tirelessly to maintain the station and its trove of sensitive instruments, despite the challenges of the past year.

“It has been very difficult for us,” Hale said. “First, the pandemic, then the Bobcat Fire — all in one year — was a real near-death experience. But people are feeling absolutely exhilarated."

The gates will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the summer, according to the observatory's website. Stargazers will also have an opportunity to book reservations to use the observatory's 60- and 100-inch telescopes in the evening.