A night at Lick Observatory
The Lick Observatory is a working astronomical research institute (optical, so big telescopes!) administered by University of California.
It sits atop Mt Hamilton, about an hour’s drive from San Jose, California. The observatory was found and funded by James Lick, a most interesting fellow, and completed in 1887. Although he died just before the original buildings were completed, his remains are placed under the main observatory. This is the original telescope’s housing
You can see the red light emerging from the window. Inside, while in use, the observatory is lit with red light as it allows you to see (so you don’t trip up on things!), but it doesn’t harm your night vision. Here is the original telescope.
This is a 36″ refractor; you look through it like a camera lens. At its time it was the largest refractor in the world, and even today it is the second largest of this type of telescope. Here’s a shot of it in normal light, with the roof closed.
Telescopes are now primarily reflectors (Newton invented these originally) which are large concave mirrors which focus the light so it can be views. Reflectors are easier to build for large sizes, so are the main technology in use today for astronomical telescopes.
Here is the bottom end of the main ‘scope
The photos were taken on one of their visitor nights; they give you a history of the observatory, including a presentation about James Lick (he really is a fascinating guy!), and you get to look through both this telescope and the 1 metre reflector.
Next to the ‘scope, is the control desk. We are talking real technology here, it has dials and no digital read-outs. The structure of the ‘scope is wooden, its wonderful.
We looked through the ‘scope at a Globular Cluster (a blob of, oh something like a million stars) that is one of many clusters that orbit our galaxy (which is composed of billions of stars). At this stage, we don’t seem to know too much about these globes of stars, so they are quite a fascinating subject, and one that is being studied here I gather.
The Lick Observatory has a “Friends of Lick” group; Like many public institutions its funding is being cut, so it needs funds. The visitor nights are a night worth spending if you are in the area and very reasonably priced.
Here are some views from Mt Hamilton (the location of the observatory). This is the view south, with Monterey Bay to the left
And the view to the west (and a bit north), with the cars heading back down the mountain and San Jose city in the distance