The Lick Observatory is an astronomical observatory, owned and operated by the University of California. It is situated on the summit of Mount Hamilton, in the Diablo Range just east of San Jose, California, US. The observatory is managed by the University of California Observatories, with headquarters on the University of California, Santa Cruz campus, where its scientific staff moved in the mid-1960s. It is named after James Lick.
Lick Observatory's James Lick telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building
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Location of Lick Observatory
Lick Observatory is the world's first permanently occupied mountain-top observatory. The observatory, in a Classical Revival style structure, was constructed between 1876 and 1887, from a bequest from James Lick of $700,000 (approximately $22 million in 2014 US dollars). Lick, originally a carpenter and piano maker, chose the site atop Mount Hamilton and was buried there in 1887 under the future site of the telescope, with a brass tablet bearing the inscription, "Here lies the body of James Lick".
Lick additionally requested that Santa Clara County construct a "first-class road" to the summit, completed in 1876. Lick chose John Wright, of San Francisco's Wright & Sanders firm of architects, to design both the Observatory and the Astronomer's House. All of the construction materials had to be brought to the site by horse and mule-drawn wagons, which could not negotiate a steep grade. To keep the grade below 6.5%, the road had to take a very winding and sinuous path, which the modern-day road (California State Route 130) still follows. Tradition maintains that this road has exactly 365 turns (This is approximately correct, although uncertainty as to what should count as a turn makes precise verification impossible). The road is closed when there is snow at Lick Observatory.
The first telescope installed at the observatory was a 12-inch (300-millimeter) refractor made by Alvan Clark. Astronomer E. E. Barnard used the telescope to make "exquisite photographs of comets and nebulae", according to D. J. Warner of Warner & Swasey Company.
The 36-inch (91-centimeter) refracting telescope on Mt. Hamilton was Earth's largest refracting telescope during the period from when it saw first light on January 3, 1888, until the construction of Yerkes Observatory in 1897. Warner & Swasey designed and built the telescope mounting, with the 36-inch (91-centimeter) lens manufactured by one of the Clark sons, Alvan Graham. E. E. Barnard used the telescope in 1892 to discover a fifth moon of Jupiter, Amalthea. This was the first addition to Jupiter's known moons since Galileo observed the planet through his parchment tube and spectacle lens. The telescope provided spectra for W. W. Campbell's work on the radial velocities of stars.
In May 1888, the observatory was turned over to the Regents of the University of California, and it became the first permanently occupied mountain-top observatory in the world. Edward Singleton Holden was the first director. The location provided excellent viewing performance because of lack of ambient light and pollution; additionally, the night air at the top of Mt. Hamilton is extremely calm, and the mountain peak is normally above the level of the low cloud cover that is often seen in the San Jose area. When low cloud cover is present below the peak, light pollution is cut to almost nothing.
On May 21, 1939, during a nighttime fog that engulfed the summit, a U.S. Army Air Force Northrop A-17 two-seater attack plane crashed into the main building. Because a scientific meeting was being held elsewhere, the only staff member present was Nicholas Mayall. Nothing caught fire and the two individuals in the building were unharmed. The pilot of the plane, Lt. Richard F. Lorenz, and passenger Private W. E. Scott were killed instantly. The telephone line was broken by the crash, so no help could be called for at first. Eventually help arrived together with numerous reporters and photographers, who kept arriving almost all night long. Evidence of their numbers could be seen the next day by the litter of flash bulbs carpeting the parking lot. The press widely covered the accident and many reports emphasized the luck in not losing a large cabinet of spectrograms which was knocked over by the crash coming through an astronomer's office window. Perhaps more notable was the lack of fire or damage to a telescope dome.
In 1950, the California state legislature appropriated funds for a 120-inch (300-centimeter) reflector telescope, which was completed in 1959. The observatory additionally has a 24-inch (61-centimeter) Cassegrain reflector dedicated to photoelectric measurements of star brightness, and received a pair of 20-inch (51-centimeter) astrographs from the Carnegie Corporation.
In 1886, Lick Observatory begins supplying Railroad Standard Time to the Southern Pacific Railroad, and to other businesses, over telegraph lines. The signal was generated by a clock manufactured by E. Howard & Co. specifically for the Observatory, and which included an electric apparatus for transmitting the time signal over telegraph lines. While most of the nation's railroads received their time signal from the U.S. Naval Observatory time signal via Western Union's telegraph lines, the Lick Observatory Time-Signal was used by railroads from the West coast all the way to Colorado.
With the growth of San Jose, and the rest of Silicon Valley, light pollution became a problem for the observatory. In the 1970s, a site in the Santa Lucia Mountains at Junípero Serra Peak, southeast of Monterey, was evaluated for possible relocation of many of the telescopes. However, funding for the move was not available, and in 1980 San Jose began a program to reduce the effects of lighting, most notably replacing all streetlamps with low pressure sodium lamps. The result is that the Mount Hamilton site remains a viable location for a major working observatory. The International Astronomical Union named Asteroid 6216 San Jose to honor the city's efforts toward reducing light pollution.
In 2006, there were 23 families in residence, plus typically between two and ten visiting astronomers from the University of California campuses, who stay in dormitories while working at the observatory. The little town of Mount Hamilton atop the mountain has its own police and a post office, and until 2005 had a one-room K-8 school.
In 2008, there were 38 people residing on the mountain; the chef and commons dinner were decommissioned. By 2013, with continuing budget and staff cuts there remain only about nineteen residents and it is common for the observers to work from remote observing stations rather than make the drive, partly as a result of the business office raising the cost to stay in the dorms. The swimming pool has been closed.
In November 2014, the University of California announced its intention to continue support of Lick Observatory.
Telescopes at Lick Observatory are used by researchers from multiple campuses of the University of California system. Current topics of research carried out at Lick include exoplanets, supernovae, active galactic nuclei, planetary science, and development of new adaptive optics technologies.
The following astronomical objects were discovered at Lick Observatory:
In addition to observations of natural phenomena, Lick was also the location of the first laser range finding observation of the Apollo 11 reflector, although this was only for confirmation purposes and no ongoing range finding work was performed.
Current equipment and locations:
Sometime this week the Trustees of the James Lick Estate will convey to the Board of Regents of the State University the Mount Hamilton Observatory.
Lost in thick fog, an army attack plane crashed into Lick Astronomical Observatory of the University of California on Mount Hamilton tonight. Its two occupants were killed. They were Lieut. R. F. Lorenz, 25, of March Field, the pilot, and Private W. E. Scott, a passenger.
18D/Perrine–Mrkos is a periodic comet in the Solar System, originally discovered by the American-Argentine astronomer Charles Dillon Perrine (Lick Observatory, California, United States) on December 9, 1896. For some time it was thought to be a fragment of Biela's Comet.It was considered lost after the 1909 appearance, but was rediscovered by the Czech astronomer Antonín Mrkos (Skalnate Pleso Observatory, Slovakia) on October 19, 1955, using ordinary binoculars, it was later confirmed as 18D by Leland E. Cunningham (Leuschner Observatory, University of California, Berkeley).
The comet was last observed during the 1968 perihelion passage when it passed 0.3144 AU (47,030,000 km; 29,230,000 mi) from the Earth. The comet has not been observed during the following perihelion passages:
1975 Aug. 2
1982 May 16
1989 Feb. 28
1995 Dec. 6
2009 Apr. 17
2017 Feb. 26The next predicted perihelion passage would be on 2025-Jan-01 but the comet is currently considered lost as it has not been seen since Jan 1969.Astronomical Society of the Pacific
The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) is an American scientific and educational organization, founded in San Francisco on February 7, 1889. Its name derives from its origins on the Pacific Coast, but today it has members all over the country and the world. It has the legal status of a nonprofit organization.
It is the largest general astronomy education society in the world, with members from over 40 countries.
The ASP's goal is to promote public interest in and awareness of astronomy (and increase scientific literacy) through its publications, web site, and many educational and outreach programs. These include:
Project ASTRO - a national program that improves the teaching of astronomy and physical science (using hands-on inquiry-based activities) by pairing amateur and professional astronomers with 4th through 9th grade teachers and classes.
Family ASTRO - a project that develops kits and games to help families enjoy astronomy in their leisure time and trains astronomers, educators, and community leaders
Astronomy from the Ground Up - a national program to help educators at smaller science museums, nature centers and environmental education organizations create or enhance astronomy education programs.
The Night Sky Network - a program with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that supports a community of over 450 amateur astronomy clubs around the U.S. in public outreach activities, providing them with kits and training. The clubs have sky gazing events, solar viewings, and give presentations for the public.
Classroom materials and resources in astronomy (many developed by the Society's educational staff) sold through their online AstroShop or made available free through their web siteThe ASP assists with astronomy education and outreach by partnering with other organizations both in the United States and internationally, and organizes an annual meeting to promote the appreciation and understanding of astronomy.
Presidents of the ASP have included such notable astronomers as Edwin Hubble, George O. Abell, and Frank Drake. George Pardee, who later became Governor of the State of California, served as president in 1899.Automated Planet Finder
The Automated Planet Finder Telescope (APF) a.k.a. Rocky Planet Finder, is a fully robotic 2.4-meter optical telescope at Lick Observatory, situated on the summit of Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose, California, USA. It is designed to search for extrasolar planets in the range of five to twenty times the mass of the Earth. The instrument will examine about 10 stars per night. Over the span of a decade, the telescope is expected to study 1,000 nearby stars for planets. Its estimated cost was $10 million. The total cost-to-completion of the APF project was $12.37 million. First light was originally scheduled for 2006, but delays in the construction of the major components of the telescope pushed this back to August 2013. It was commissioned in August 2013.The telescope uses high-precision radial velocity measurements to measure the gravitational reflex motion of nearby stars caused by the orbiting of planets. The design goal is to detect stellar motions as small as one meter per second, comparable to a slow walking speed. The main targets will be stars within about 100 light years of the Earth.Early tests show that the performance of the Ken and Gloria Levy Doppler Spectrometer is meeting the design goals. The spectrometer has high throughput and is meeting the design sensitivity of (1.0 m/s), similar to the radial velocity precision of HARPS and HIRES.C. Donald Shane telescope
The C. Donald Shane telescope is a 120-inch (3.0-meter) reflecting telescope located at the Lick Observatory in San Jose, California. It was named after astronomer C. Donald Shane in 1978, who led the effort to acquire the necessary funds from the California Legislature, and who then oversaw the telescope's construction. It is the largest and most powerful telescope at the Lick Observatory, and was the second-largest telescope in the world when it was commissioned in 1959.The Shane's mirror started as a 10,000-pound Corning Labs glass test blank for the Palomar Observatory's 200-inch (5-m) Hale telescope (in north San Diego County, California), but was sold below cost ($50,000) by Caltech to the Lick Observatory. It was then transported to Mount Hamilton, where the blank was ground and polished by the observatory.Carl A. Wirtanen
Carl Alvar Wirtanen (November 11, 1910, Kenosha, Wisconsin – March 7, 1990 Santa Cruz, California) was an American astronomer and discoverer of comets and minor planets who worked at Lick Observatory. He was of Finnish ancestry.
Wirtanen discovered periodic comet 46P/Wirtanen, as well as eight asteroids, including notably the Apollo asteroid (29075) 1950 DA, which may have a non-negligible probability of impacting the Earth in the year 2880. He also discovered two other Apollo asteroids: 1685 Toro and 1863 Antinous. Based on the Shane–Wirtanen survey, the Shane Wirtanen Catalogue, a count of galaxies, was his major work published in 1954.The asteroid 2044 Wirt, discovered by himself at Lick Observatory in 1950, was named in his honor in on 1 January 1981 (M.P.C. 5688). The name was proposed by his colleague Arnold Klemola.Crossley telescope
The Crossley telescope is a 36-inch (910 mm) reflecting telescope located at Lick Observatory in the U.S. state of California.Edward S. Holden
Edward Singleton Holden (November 5, 1846 – March 16, 1914) was an American astronomer and the fifth president of the University of California.Index Catalogue of Visual Double Stars
The Index Catalogue of Visual Double Stars, or IDS, is a catalog of double stars. It was published by Lick Observatory in 1963 and contains measurements for 64,250 objects, covering the entire sky. The database used to construct this catalog was later transferred from Lick Observatory to the United States Naval Observatory, where it became the basis for the Washington Double Star Catalog.James Edward Keeler
James Edward Keeler (September 10, 1857 – August 12, 1900) was an American astronomer.James Lick telescope
The James Lick Telescope is a refracting telescope built in 1888. It has a lens 36 inches (91 cm) in diameter- a major achievement in its day. The instrument remains in operation and public viewing is allowed on a limited basis. Also called the "Great Lick Refractor" or simply "Lick Refractor", it was the largest refracting telescope in the world until 1897 and now ranks third, after the 40-inch unit at the Yerkes Observatory and the Swedish 1-m Solar Telescope. The telescope is located at the University of California's Lick Observatory atop Mount Hamilton at an elevation of 4,209 feet (1,283 m) above sea level. The instrument is housed inside a dome that is powered by hydraulic systems that raise and lower the floor, rotate the dome and drive the clock mechanism to track the Earth's rotation. The original hydraulic arrangement still operates today, with the exception that the original wind-powered pumps that once filled the reservoirs have been replaced with electric pumps. James Lick is entombed below the floor of the observing room of the telescope.
Here are some excerpts from an 1894 book describing the telescope:
The height of the marble floor of the main building above mean sea level is 4209 feet. On a closely connected peak half a mile to the east of the Observatory, and 50 feet higher, are the reservoirs from which water for household and photographic purposes is distributed. A spring about 350 feet below and one mile to the northeast of the Observatory supplies excellent water. Another peak seven-eighths of a mile to the east is the summit of Mount Hamilton; it is 180 feet higher than the Observatory, and supports the reservoirs supplying power for moving the dome, raising the movable floor, and winding the driving clock of the great telescope. This system receives its supply from the winter rains falling on the roofs; the water being pumped to the reservoirs on the higher peak by means of windmills.The movable floor in the dome is the first of the kind to be constructed. It is 60 feet (18 m) in diameter, and can be raised or lowered through a distance of 16 1⁄2 feet (5.0 m), its purpose being to bring the observer within convenient reach of the eye end of the telescope.Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope
The Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope (KAIT) is an automated telescope used in the search for supernovae.
The KAIT is a computer-controlled reflecting telescope with a 76 cm mirror and a CCD camera to take pictures. It is located at the Lick Observatory near San Jose, California.
KAIT can take close to 100 images per hour and observe about 1000 galaxies a night.Mount Hamilton (California)
Mount Hamilton is a mountain in California's Diablo Range, in Santa Clara County, California. Mount Hamilton, at 4,265 feet (1,300 m) is a mountain overlooking Santa Clara Valley and is the site of Lick Observatory, the World's first permanently occupied mountain-topobservatory. The asteroid 452 Hamiltonia, discovered in 1899, is named after the mountain. Golden eagle nesting sites are found on the slopes of Mount Hamilton. On clear days, Mount Tamalpais, the Santa Cruz Mountains, Monterey Bay, the Monterey Peninsula, and even Yosemite National Park are visible from the summit of the mountain.NIROSETI
The NIROSETI (Near-InfraRed Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is an astronomical program to search for artificial signals in the optical (visible) and near infrared (NIR) wavebands of the electromagnetic spectrum. It is the first dedicated near-infrared SETI experiment. The instrument was created by a collaboration of scientists from the University of California, San Diego, Berkeley SETI Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, University of Toronto, and the SETI Institute. It uses the Anna Nickel 1-m telescope at the Lick Observatory, situated on the summit of Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose, California, USA. The instrument was commissioned (saw its first light) on 15 March 2015 and has been operated for more than 150 nights.Robert Grant Aitken
For others similarly named, see the Robert Aitken navigation pageRobert Grant Aitken (December 31, 1864 – October 29, 1951) was an American astronomer.SN 1999ec
SN 1999ec was a type Ib supernova that was discovered in the interacting galaxy NGC 2207 on October 2, 1999. It was found on images taken with the Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope at the Lick Observatory. The progenitor is estimated to have had 38 times the mass of the Sun and was 5.34 million years old at the time of the outburst.SN 2003H
SN 2003H was a supernova that appeared halfway between the colliding NGC 2207 and IC 2163 galaxies. It was discovered on January 8, 2003, by the Lick Observatory and Tenagra Supernova Searches (LOTOSS).Sandra Faber
Sandra Moore Faber (born December 28, 1944)is an astrophysicist known for her research on the evolution of galaxies. She is the University Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and works at the Lick Observatory. She has made important discoveries linking the brightness of galaxies to the speed of stars within them and was the co-discoverer of the Faber–Jackson relation. Faber was also instrumental in designing the Keck telescopes in Hawaii.Steven S. Vogt
Steven Scott Vogt (born December 20, 1949) is an American astronomer of German descent whose main interest is the search for extrasolar planets.
He is credited, along with R. Paul Butler, for discovering Gliese 581 g, the first potentially habitable planet outside of the Solar System.He is a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and is known worldwide for designing and building HIRES, a high-resolution optical spectrometer mounted permanently on the W. M. Keck Observatory 10-meter telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. HIRES is an instrument critical to observations and discoveries about the planets, stars, galaxies, and the universe. Vogt also built the Hamilton spectrometer at Lick Observatory (with which most of the first extrasolar planets were discovered). In 1987, earlier in his career, Vogt invented the technique of "Doppler imaging" for mapping the surface features of stars.Vogt is currently a member of the California-Carnegie Planet Search Team. This team is building a new telescope in the Lick Observatory, the Automated Planet Finder, expected to be the most powerful in the world for detecting extrasolar planets. It will be able to track planets moving at velocities as little as 1 meter per second (the speed of a walking man). Vogt and his team are credited with detecting a majority of the 100 planets now known.Vogt received his bachelor's degrees in Physics and Astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1972, his Master of Science degree in Astronomy from UT Austin in 1976, and Ph.D in Astronomy from UT Austin in 1978.He's been a member of the University of California Observatories (UCO) at Lick Observatory since 1978.William Wallace Campbell
William Wallace Campbell (April 11, 1862 – June 14, 1938) was an American astronomer, and director of Lick Observatory from 1901 to 1930. He specialized in spectroscopy.
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