Palomar Giving Opportunities

Palomar Observatory is among our most cherished Caltech traditions, and its iconic status in astronomy reflects its enormous scientific and cultural impact over the past 70 years. Today Palomar remains central to Caltech Astronomy research, student and post-doctoral researcher training, and is uniquely accessible among Caltech's active observatories because of its close proximity to Southern California urban centers.

We hope that as you enjoy either visiting Palomar Observatory in person or browsing the Observatory website, you might consider including Palomar in your giving plans. Stewardship of the Palomar facility and tradition means both operating the observatory and advancing its instrumentation suite in today's challenging economic environment. Your tax-deductible contribution will help us maintain Palomar as a vibrant contributor to astronomical research, and as an inspirational presence in the lives of so many who connect with Palomar's rich tradition—especially future generations who will help carry that tradition forward.

Fritz Zwicky observing at Palomar 18-inch Schmidt, circa 1936. (Caltech Archives)

The A.W. Greenway Visitor Center. (Palomar/Caltech)

Wooden mockup of the prime focus pedestal in the 200-inch (5.1-m) Hale Telescope. This mockup appears in an old lantern slide, which was clearly used by R. W. Porter as a model for his famous sketch. The mockup and the lantern slide are both in the Palomar Collection. (Palomar/Caltech/Caltech Archives)

Specific Giving Opportunities

Zwicky Transient Facility

The most successful Palomar initiative in the past few years is the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF). PTF teams all the telescopes at Palomar in a unique way to detect and measure "transient" (varying) sources in the sky. Over the past several years PTF has been extraordinarily successful in finding large numbers of new transient sources such as hyperluminous supernova, the nearest Type 1a supernova seen in decades, and an outbursting protostar in a nearby star-forming region.

To build on these successes, Caltech is leading the planning for a follow-on activity called the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), named for the prolific Caltech/Palomar astronomer Fritz Zwicky. The key step for ZTF is the development of a new wide-field camera for the PTF discovery machine, the 48-inch (1.2-meter) Samuel Oschin Telescope (P48). In the early design phase, a donor-recognition opportunity exists to support the development of this new wide-field camera at the heart of ZTF.

Palomar Museum Update Campaign

Among our new and most visible projects at Palomar Observatory is an update of our Visitor/Museum area, the Addison White Greenway, Jr. Visitor Center (pictured at right). While this facility has served the Observatory well over the years, the displays are dated, and need revision to have greater public impact and educational value. We have initiated a planning activity at COO/Caltech to update the Greenway Visitor Center and its display set. Specific opportunities exist for donor recognition associated with targeted gifts in several contexts, as well as more general support of the Museum update project.

The Palomar Observatory Collection

As a research facility with a long and rich tradition, Palomar Observatory is home to a vast collection of historical, technical, and scientific records including engineering prints and notes, photographs, videos, astronomical film and plates, logbooks, manuals, and electronic data, as well as countless instrumentation and parts used for observing and analysis.

As of 2014, most items in the Collection are uncatalogued and stored in various Observatory buildings and on campus in conditions far from ideal. While there have been commendable efforts to organize and properly store scientific records and photographic plates, and to scan technical prints dating back to the construction of the Observatory, a substantial amount of work remains to be done in order to properly store, protect, and catalog original records and artifacts. The Palomar Collection is not only of historical and technical interest to the Observatory and associated institutions, but it holds invaluable scientific information still relevant to the astronomical community.

The Observatory has a commitment to conserve and protect its Collection in a manner that will assure their continued accessibility by future generations. Specific opportunities exist to support staff professionally trained in archival and conservation procedures, as well as more general support of the Palomar Collection project.

Further Information

Individuals or groups interested in giving opportunities should contact COO Deputy Director Andy Boden (bode [at] for further information/discussion.

Questions? We've answered many common visiting, media, and academic questions in our public FAQ page.
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Last updated: 28 May 2015 AFB/ACM