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Take a Breathtaking Ride to the Top of Mt. Wilson's Solar Tower

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The 1904 Mt. Wilson Observatory has a critical place in astronomy history: "It is where Nobel laureate Albert Michelson determined the speed of light, Edwin Hubble proved that the universe was expanding, and where, 100 years ago last month, observatory founder George Ellery Hale discovered magnetic fields on the sun," as the LA Times described in 2008. But what has it been up to lately? Well, until recently, scientists were monitoring and drawing solar flares from the heights of its solar towers, as shown in this vertiginous video from SoCal Connected. For 28 years, Steve Padilla has been Mt. Wilson's Solar Observer—"he ventures up the [150-foot solar] tower, adjusts a series of mirrors, and then draws the sun. He is part of a research project that has been documenting solar flares on a daily basis for almost 100 years," writes co-producer/co-director Alexandre Hatlestad-Shey in an email to Curbed. However, the observer project has lost more and more funding over the years and now it's been canceled.

This footage documents Padilla's last day officially working the job, which he describes in the video as "a mix of art and science." In addition to illustrating the incredible work of a solar observer, the video offers breathtaking views of the mountains and a cloud-covered LA Basin from Mt. Wilson Observatory (elevation 5,715 feet), which is just off the Angeles Crest Highway north of La Cañada.


· End of Watch [YouTube]