My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But, ah, my foes, and, oh, my friends --
It gives a lovely light.
-- Edna St. Vincent Millay. A Few Figs from Thistles
When the astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble first arrived in California in September of 1919, after completing his tour of duty in World War I, Pasadena was little more than a quiet village set among vineyards and orange groves intersected by rambling dirt roads. Overhead stretched pristine skies, starspangled and black as velvet after sunset, the lifeblood of the astronomer. No smokestacks or exhaust or bright city lights obscured the magnificent images streaming earthward time out of mind.
All that was about to change. At the end of Colorado Street stood the elevated remnants of an abandoned dream, the never completed cycleway that would have allowed locals to pay a small toll for the privilege of biking to Los Angeles undeterred by the weather, rutted roads, and horse droppings. Construction had ceased when it became clear to investors that the automobile had rendered the structure obsolete before they could collect their first dime.
Christmas Eve found Hubble atop Mount Wilson detached from this small planet circling its middling star, his fingers and thumbs poised on the buttons of the giant one-hundred-inch Hooker telescope, the greatest gift any astronomer could de-