The Lick Observatory

For readers interested in astronomy as such, here are some photos taken during a tour of the Lick observatory in August of 2004.

The observatory is located on the peak of Mt. Hamilton, California, at an elevation of about 1200 m above sea level.

Mt. Hamilton is east of San Jose, southeast of San Francisco Bay, and is set back a few km from the foothills bordering Santa Clara Valley (Silicon Valley).

Mt. Hamilton may be seen by looking down any of several streets in Santa Clara or San Jose.
LickObservatory from El Camino For example, on the right is a view of Mt. Hamilton from El Camino Real, a major street which runs east, and then more or less south or southeast from San Francisco through San Jose and beyond. The arrows indicate the round white domes of the major telescopes at the Lick Observatory, about 20 km away.

LickObservatory from Rte. 101 and Brokaw Road

The domes and buildings on Mt. Hamilton can be seen to the left in a view from a slightly closer location.

LickObservatory from Rte. 101 and Brokaw Road snow

In winter, Mt. Hamilton gets snow, sometimes making roads to the observatory impassible.

El Camino was the major "King's Highway" (El Camino Real = "the King's Road", in Spanish) in the days when California was a Spanish colony.

The astronomical facility at the Lick Observatory is operated by the University of California and includes nine major telescope domes, as well as guest housing for astronomers and assorted astronomy-related research labs.

The historically significant Lick 36-inch (about 1 m) refracting telescope was commissioned in the late nineteenth century as the largest refractor in the world and is mounted in a dome connected to a building containing a small museum and gift shop. Tours are given several times a week, and group lectures may be scheduled. This telescope for the most part no longer is used in research.

This was taken from near the dome of the 3-meter Shane reflector. Looking west just before sunset, it shows the 1 m refractor dome on the left, the museum building in the center, and a smaller dome, also connected, on the right. The smaller dome actually was built before the 1 m refractor was installed and now is being used for a newer telescope. Another smaller dome and some housing facilities are visible in the foreground.

Looking now in the opposite direction but from near the 1 m dome, here is another photo of Mt. Hamilton including the great dome of the more modern 120-inch (3-meter) Shane reflector. This telescope was commissioned around the middle of the twentieth century and remains an active research tool. Newly installed adaptive optics allow correction of atmospheric turbulence and give this telescope a resolution better than that available from smaller telescopes in Earth orbit. Some housing and several smaller domes also are visible in the photo.

The 3 m telescope is a truly massive device. Here is a view of its mounting. One prong of the giant yoke occupies the lower left center of the photo. The flat, copper-colored disc on the axle supported by the yoke is the declination gear; its fine teeth are invisible except as a dark outer border on the disc. The 3-m main mirror is out of view toward the bottom; a secondary mirror is visible near the top of the mounting as a bright patch in a dark cylinder aligned with the line of sight. The secondary mirror reflects the image to a detecting instrument located near the main mirror, or it sends the image to other mirrors for processing by more distant detectors.

Inside the dome of the smaller 1 m refractor, the telescope tube and its (equatorial) mounting counterweights are visible here. The 1 m objective lens, just out of sight at upper center of the photo, is made of two components which correct for spherical and, partially, chromatic aberration. The glass is from the late nineteenth century and is hygroscopic, requiring that the telescope be protected from cumulative damage caused by dew or other condensation.

To the lower left in the photo, the optics of the eyepiece can be seen pointing down; an observer using the telescope as shown would have to be looking almost vertically upward. Various more or less modern controls and indicators are mounted around the tube near the eyepiece, and the sighting telescope, itself a respectably large refractor, can be seen to the far left. The smooth, circular outer bar around the eyepiece end of the tube is a handling bar: This telescope, although very large, is moved into position manually; after initial positioning, a small tracking motor compensates for the Earth's rotation to keep the image steady in the field of view.

The mounting pedestal shown at right center in the photo contains time of day and other reference electrical instrumentation, apparently mostly of 1950's vintage. An armchair is visible in which an observer would sit while waiting for visibility on a cloudy day, or while planning out a turn at a viewing session. The flooring on which the armchair and instrumentation panel are located may be moved upward or downward, so that elevation of the telescope still would allow an observer to stand near the eyepiece end of the tube and look through the eyepiece. The original hydraulics to move the floor were operated by a system of pipes and cylinders gravitationally powered; electricity was not supplied to Mt. Hamilton until the period just before the start of World War I.

Here is another view of the interior of the dome of the 1 m refractor. The circular border of the movable flooring is visible; the flooring has been moved somewhat higher here than in the previous photo (above). The sighting telescope and the open dome can be seen clearly. The instrumentation at the mounting pedestal appears very light because this photo was taken in dim light before beginning dark-adaptation of the eyes; under operating conditions for nighttime observations, the panel would be lit by dim red lamps.

The latest addition to the Lick facility is the APF (Automated Planet Finder) telescope, a computer-controlled reflector equipped with a doppler spectrometer to detect small frequency perturbations in the light of a star caused by the star's planet(s). A nice summary of this project was published by Lisa M. Krieger in the San Jose Mercury-News, in the 2009-04-22 edition.

A listing of current Lick Observatory projects is available, as is other information, including a webcam, concerning the Mt. Hamilton observatory, at the Lick website.

Email Comments.

Back to Pulfrich Effect Home. University Privacy Policy

The Pulfrich Effect, SIU-C. Last updated 2010-07-17