Palomar Observatory Guided Tours
The following options are available to Palomar Observatory visitors:
Most Palomar visitors will tour the accessible areas (see map below) on their own.
Public Guided Tours (April – October)
Public guided tours of the 200-inch (5.1-meter) Hale Telescope are available to visitors on the weekends (Saturday and Sunday) spring through fall—typically from the first Saturday in April to the last Sunday in October.
The tours are roughly one hour long, and limited-availability tickets (sold exclusively on a day-of and first-come, first served basis) are required. Please plan accordingly.
Time and Location
Public tour start times are 10:30 am, 12:30 pm, and 2:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Please follow the signs from the Visitor Center to the tour meeting point. Tours start on the northwest side of the Hale Telescope dome (immediately to the left of the large service doors as viewed facing the dome from the west). To ensure you make your tour (and in consideration of others) please be on time.
Public tour tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are sold in the Gift and Book Store (Greenway Visitor Center) the day of the tour. We cannot offer online or advance ticket sales. The store opens at 9:15 am and tickets go on sale for all tours that day at that time. We accept only electronic payments—Visa, Mastercard, Apple Pay—no cash transactions.
Tickets are $5.00 per person, $3.00 for children (ages 5 through 12) and seniors (age 65 and over), maximum 6 tickets per customer. Tour presentations are unsuitable for children under 5 years of age, hence our minimum age requirement.
Please note that tours may be cancelled due to observatory operations or available staffing. Check this page for updates.
Educational Group Tours (Year-Round)
Caltech considers educational outreach to be a major part of its strategic mission. For this reason, Palomar Observatory offers tours at no charge to educational groups at the college and high school levels. These tours may be scheduled on weekdays or on weekends before the regular public tours. Please be aware, however, for reasons related to the operations of the observatory, there are only a few times during the week when these tours can take place. Tour priority, therefore, is given to educational, youth, non-profit, and traditionally disadvantaged or under represented groups.
For more information, contact Steve Flanders at sbf [at] astro.caltech.edu. These tours are typically an hour in duration. Group tours are for groups up to 30 people and are by reservation only.
Visitors Gallery Presentations (Year-Round)
The Visitors Gallery is an enclosed space within the dome with a clear view of the Hale Telescope. Any group can request a presentation by one of the observatory docents. We are able to conduct these presentations whenever the observatory grounds are open. With time for questions and discussion, these presentations describe the history, operations and science of Palomar Observatory. Often we have opportunities to discuss a range of topics in astronomy. These events may last as long as the audience wishes and for this reason we recommend Gallery presentations for children of grade school age. Because there is sitting available, groups of seniors may prefer this option.
For more information, contact Steve Flanders at sbf [at] astro.caltech.edu. As with the educational tours, Gallery presentations may be scheduled at any time during the year.
Questions? We've answered many common visiting, media, and academic questions in our public FAQ page.