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The Journey To Palomar

Airs Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Palomar Hale telescope dedication, 1948.

Credit: Courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens

Above: Palomar Hale telescope dedication, 1948.

"The Journey To Palomar" is the story of American astronomer George Ellery Hale's dramatic public and private struggle to build the four largest telescopes in the world, which set the stage for astronomy and space exploration throughout the 20th century, revealing the greatest discoveries since Galileo and Copernicus. They laid the foundation for the preeminence of American science, today's marvels like the Hubble Space Telescope and tomorrow's super giant telescopes.

More than five years in the making, the documentary traces Hale's lifelong struggle to build these great instruments, culminating with the million-pound telescope on Palomar mountain - the most famous telescope in the world. The combination of Hale's dramatic personal story set against the backdrop of American history and humankind's reach into the far corners of the universe creates a film with appeal to viewers of all ages.

Today, the next generation of even bigger telescopes are being planned by The Carnegie Observatories and Caltech — the very institutions Hale founded a century ago — and by NASA, which also owes a debt to Hale's work.

Preview: The Journey To Palomar

"The Journey To Palomar" traces the epic personal and professional quest of the Chicago-born astronomer, George Ellery Hale, to build the four largest telescopes of the 20th century, culminating with the 20-year effort to build the million-pound telescope on Palomar Mountain, a project considered the "moon shot" of the 1930s and 1940s.

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