Visiting Palomar Observatory
Palomar Observatory is open to the public.
We are introducing new observatory self-guided tour support available using visitor handheld devices (e.g. smartphones and tablets). More information below.
Updated Tue 29 Nov 2022 3:33 pm PST
Palomar Observatory is owned and operated by Caltech, and as such it is private property. The Observatory is a popular destination in Southern California and receives tens of thousands of visitors a year from all over the world. Most come to see the famous 200-inch (5.1-meter) Hale Telescope—for decades the largest effective telescope in operation. Whether you are an astronomy, history, or engineering enthusiast, or simply curious about the Observatory, you will enjoy visiting our museum and taking one of our guided tours of the facility. All are welcome at the Palomar, but we ask that all visitors respect our rules and procedures.
With some exceptions, Palomar Observatory is open to the public daily. These exceptions are for Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday of November), December 24 through January 2, certain maintenance operations, and for possible weather emergencies. The Observatory is open from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm PT. Please be aware that the visitor gates will be closed promptly at the times indicated.
Particularly in the winter months, the Observatory is occasionally closed to the public due to severe weather and/or dangerous conditions. Whenever possible, this web page and our public information recording phone number (760) 742-2119 will be updated to reflect any closures. All visitors are encouraged to check this site and/or the information number before departing to Palomar.
The public areas of the Observatory consist of the A.W. Greenway Jr. Visitor Center and the Visitors Gallery inside the 200-inch Hale Telescope dome. The Visitor Center also features the Palomar Observatory Store (the store, which will be reopening its doors to visitors soon, continues to serve 24/7 via online ordering).
Plan Your Visit
Before You Drive
On the Observatory Grounds
Information For Mobility-Impaired Visitors
Free Palomar Observatory Audioguide
We have developed a free Palomar Observatory audioguide—a collection of media and information that explores individual topics about the Observatory—to accompany visitors during their self-guided tour. The audioguide is browser-based (i.e., no app to download) and can be accessed via ag.palomar.caltech.edu or QR codes posted throughout Observatory public spaces. We encourage visitors to bring their own smartphone, ear/headphones, and sufficient battery charge on their device for 30 – 60 minutes of use.
The audioguide provides visitors with supporting media (video, audio, and bilingual text/closed-captions) enhancing an Observatory visit. Other sections of the audioguide include “virtual visits” to many areas not public accessible, information on other visitor services like guided tours or public events, an interactive map, and relevant links to this website. While on site, audioguide users may connect to our free Wi-Fi through access points located in the Greenway Center and the Hale Telescope Visitors Gallery.
Questions? We've answered many common visiting, media, and academic questions in our public FAQ page.