Celebrating 75 Years of Discovery

The Palomar Observatory Community

Friends of Palomar Observatory star party. (B. Orchard Photography)

Palomar Observatory is a research facility, but it is also a diverse and inclusive community of staff, astronomers and institutional partners, docent volunteers, educational partners, enthusiasts, visitors, and neighbors from Southern California and around the world. From the dedicated staff who keep the Observatory, telescopes, and instruments functioning, to the many members of the general public who visit us, all are welcome and encouraged to share in Palomar's rich tradition of research and education.

Our Staff

Observatory staff recoating the Hale Telescope primary mirror. (Palomar/Caltech)

The heart of the Palomar Observatory community is the Observatory staff—a team of administrative, technical, maintenance, service, and telescope support professionals that affect smooth day-to-day operations and effective instrument performance. Roughly two dozen staff live and/or work at the Observatory. Due to the Observatory's remote location, Palomar staff have a broad range of responsibilities. Our staff do everything from support and operate the sophisticated telescopes and instruments used in Palomar's research mission; maintain the Observatory buildings, infrastructure, and grounds; and provide lodging and meals for visiting astronomers.


Research at Palomar is conducted by astronomers from all over the world. Many are based in Southern California at Caltech and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Others are from domestic partners such as Yale University. International Palomar Partners include the Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS) and the National Astronomical Observatories of China. To learn more about our scientists, please visit the Palomar astronomers page.

Volunteer Docents

Docent working with a young Observatory visitor. (Palomar/Caltech)

Palomar Observatory's docent volunteers are an important part of the Observatory community, and a central component of our public outreach efforts. Palomar docents give of themselves to share our Palomar traditions with Observatory visitors and our Southern California neighbors. The docents participate in a wide range of activities for the visiting public such as leading tours of the 200-inch (5.1-meter) Hale Telescope, conducting nighttime programs, and representing the Observatory at external community events. For more on our docent program, please visit the Palomar docents page.

Friends of the Observatory

The Friends of Palomar Observatory gives members of the public an opportunity to connect with the Observatory. Friends events include talks by Palomar and Southern California astronomers, special access tours of the Observatory, and off-site events with partner institutions. If you are interested in becoming a friend of the Observatory, find out more at the Friends of Palomar Observatory page.


Palomar Observatory visitors on a typical weekend. (Palomar/Caltech)

The public is welcome to visit and tour Palomar Observatory during open hours. The 200-inch Hale Telescope is the main attraction, but visitors may also tour our museum and take a guided tour of the facility. Our visiting Palomar page has the information on visiting hours and travel to the Observatory.

Join Our Community

Palomar Observatory is among the most cherished of Caltech traditions. The Observatory encourages you to become involved with its community and mission. Opportunities to become involved range from joining the Friends of Palomar, volunteering as an Observatory docent, engaging in our educational programs, or giving to the Observatory to support research or community engagement.

Questions? We've answered many common visiting, media, and academic questions in our public FAQ page.
Please share your feedback on this page at the COO Feedback portal.

Community / v 1.0.3
Last updated: 3 February 2021 AFB/ACM