365DaysDate: April 26, 2009


Title: A New Sky Survey at Palomar Observatory

Podcaster: Scott Kardel


Description: The Palomar Transient Factory (, is new sky survey taking place at Palomar Observatory. It is a fully-automated, wide-field survey that is unique in a variety of ways and is already returning important discoveries. This pod cast will explain how it works, what astronomers are already finding and what surprises they hope to find.

Bio: Scott Kardel received his MS in Astronomy from the University of Arizona and his BS in Physical Science / Secondary Education from Northern Arizona University. For the last two and a half decades he has been working to bring an understanding of science and the universe to a wide range of audiences.

In 2003 he became the Palomar Observatory’s first full-time person devoted to public outreach. There he works to bring Palomar’s rich history and story of exploration on the road and on the Net to a wide variety of groups throughout Southern California and beyond.

Today’s Sponsor: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by Astrocamp Summer Mission of Idyllwild, California. Help introduce a child to the world of Astronomy. Learn more at


Hello and welcome to another edition of the 365 Days of Astronomy podcasts. I am Scott Kardel of the Palomar Observatory.

Back in February I told you about some of the sky surveys that have taken place at Palomar. Today I want to talk about an event that recently took place as a direct result of the Second Palomar Observatory Sky Survey.

One of the people who performed the survey was Jean Mueller. Jean is currently the senior telescope operator on Palomar’s 200-inch Hale Telescope. But for almost 15 years, she exposed wide-field photographic plates for the Second Palomar Observatory Sky Survey with the 48-inch Samuel Oschin Telescope. That survey complements an original sky survey done with the same telescope back in the early 1950’s.

During the course of the sky survey she examined most of the plates under high magnification, looking closely at the images searching for comets, supernovae and fast moving asteroids. In the course of her work, Mueller discovered 15 comets, 107 supernovae and 14 asteroids.

Three asteroids that she discovered have recently been given names to honor the Luiseño Indians who are native to Palomar Mountain and the surrounding region. Recently a presentation with officials from the Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians and Palomar Observatory was held here at the observatory.

Mueller chose names for her asteroids that honor the culture of the people who have lived in this area for a millennium. At the ceremony she had this to say “It has been a dream that I could follow through with the naming of these asteroids for the Luiseño people and to honor their culture and history. I started thinking about this probably 15-20 years ago and took my first steps toward this back in 2003.

“I just want to mention a couple of things about the asteroids. They were all found during the sky survey and one of them is my very first discovery. 1987OA-the first asteroid I ever found. It was found in 1987. “

Chris Devers, Tribal Chairman of the Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians, described his feelings and the names of the asteroids “On behalf of the Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians, I would like to thank Palomar Observatory and Miss Mueller. And we appreciate her dedication to her field and her recognition of our people, our history and our culture.

“I’d like to take a few minutes and talk about the asteroid names. These asteroids honor the Luiseño people and are a part of our creation story. The names that have been selected have meaning to us in everything that we do, everything that we see throughout the day.

“Tukmit – Father Sky. Tomaiyowit – Earth Mother. Kwiila – Black Oak. Tukmit is in our Luiseño story and he was made from nothingness. When you talk about creation stories everything begins from basically nothing. And him and Tomaiyowit bore the First People. And to us the First People were not only the two legged but they are, you know, all the plants, the animals, the inanimate objects of the Earth. We believe that we have a relationship with all around us. When we offer our prayers we remember all of our brothers and sisters of all the kingdoms and that includes the rocks and the plants and the trees. The two legged, the four legged and the ones that swim in the great seas.

“Tomaiyowit, Earth Mother, together [they] were significant in starting our creation story and starting the people, who we are. Kwiila in our creation is the Black Oak. Palomar is a perfect example of remnants of our culture: a long time ago throughout this area is where the old grinding areas were. And the old villages. Where we would come up in the late summer. They would know when the easterly winds would blow and the acorns would fall. And it would be the gathering season for us. This is where we would be.

“But as the first people of, of the valley, Pauma Valley which includes the La Jolla Tribe that’s up here, Rincon, and Palla, it hits us in the heart that the legacy of our ancestors is going to be recognized here on Palomar.

“As a tribe we like to commit ourselves to the education of our young people. That is evident here in the audience. In order for us to continue to survive we need to pass on that knowledge to them. So far we’ve been fairly successful, because we are still here. Recently we were able to begin that process of educating our youth on the stars above. There’s a great connection between the stars and the Tribe, so it is really meaningful. “

The ceremony concluded some of the children of the Tribe, who also had artwork on display, offered a thank you blessing. Unfortunately, the sound came out particularly bad. So instead I going to give you a few moments of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” sung by a young girl of the Tribe in the Luiseño language.

[song here]
For Palomar Observatory this is Scott Kardel wishing you “clear skies”.

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
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