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Guide to the Records of the Owens Valley Radio Observatory, 1956-1967
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • History of Owens Valley Radio Observatory
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Collections

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Owens Valley Radio Observatory records,
    Date (inclusive): 1956-1967
    Collection number: Consult repository
    Creator: Owens Valley Radio Observatory
    Extent: 2.5 linear feet
    Repository: California Institute of Technology. Archives.
    Pasadena, California 91125
    Abstract: The Owens Valley Radio Observatory (OVRO) began operations in 1958 with the commissioning of two 90-foot radio telescopes built by Caltech. It was originally built to study radio galaxies, but is now used to look at the sun's magnetic field. The collection consists mostly of photographs showing the construction of various radio telescopes.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    The collection is open for research. Researchers must apply in writing for access.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright may not have been assigned to the California Institute of Technology Archives. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the California Institute of Technology Archives as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item, box and file number], The Records of the Owens Valley Radio Observatory. Archives, California Institute of Technology.

    Acquisition Information

    The OVRO collection was donated to the Institute Archives in 1999 by Dr. Anneila Sargent, current director of the Owens Valley Radio Observatory.

    History of Owens Valley Radio Observatory

    The Owens Valley Radio Observatory (OVRO), the largest university-operated radio observatory, came to life in the late 1940s through the influence of three individuals: Lee DuBridge, president of Caltech; Robert Bacher, chairman of the Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy; and Jesse Greenstein, professor of astrophysics. In 1954, Caltech occupied a central position in the American radio astronomy program. John Bolton and Gordon Stanley, two respected Australian astronomers, joined the Caltech faculty in order to undertake the construction of large dishes. In 1956 the first radio telescope, a 32-foot antenna, was erected on Palomar Mountain. It was dismantled in 1958 and transferred to the Owens Valley site. At the same time, two 90-foot (27-meter) telescopes were completed. Ten years later, an even bigger antenna, a 130-foot (40-meter) dish was finished. It was originally built to study radio galaxies but is now used to look at the sun's magnetic field. The last major instrument at the observatory is the millimeter-wave array. It consists of six 34-foot (10.4-meter) dishes (also called Leighton's dishes).

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The OVRO collection consists mostly of photographs showing the construction of various telescopes. All the instruments but the millimeter-wave array are described in the Owens Valley Radio Observatory collection.
    Researchers should refer to two excellent articles for additional historical details on radio astronomy and OVRO:
    • Cohen, Marshall H. "The Owens Valley Radio Observatory: Early Years." Engineering & Science 57/3 (Spring 1994), 14-23.
    • [Dietrich, Jane.] "...and OVRO at 40." Engineering & Science 61/3 (1998), 36-41.
    Section I. This section is devoted to the oldest radio telescope found at the Owens Valley site, the 32-foot radio telescope. It contains pictures of the telescope under construction and after completion.
    Section II. The beginning of this section contains photographs of the construction of two 90-foot radio telescopes. These pictures are organized chronologically, starting with aerial views of the construction site and ending with the completed interferometric array. The last part of the section contains materials gathered for the dedication ceremony, as well as some engineering notes.
    Section III. This section is the most comprehensive of all: it contains a large number of photographs, proposals, engineering notes and dedication material for the 130-foot radio telescope, the latest to be built at OVRO.
    Section IV. This last section contains only a few pictures, which were not taken at the Owens Valley facility. It shows the Seacliff interferometer in Sydney, Australia, with John Bolton observing. This instrument was one of the first radio telescopes ever built.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection.
    Owens Valley Radio Observatory--Photograph Collections
    California Institute of Technology
    Radio telescopes

    Related Collections

    Papers of:
    • Marshall H. Cohen
    • Jesse Greenstein
    • Robert B. Leighton (Information on the millimeter-wave antennas can be found here.)
    • Alan T. Moffet
    • Bruce Rule
    Oral Histories of:
    • Marshall H. Cohen [partially restricted until 2010]
    • Robert B. Leighton