Lick Observatory

From Academic Kids

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 near San Jose, California, USA. The observatory is managed from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where its scientific staff moved to in the mid-1960s.

Lick Observatory
Missing image
The main observatory building and the North (small) Dome, home of the Nickel Reflector
OrganizationUniversity of California
LocationSan Jose, California, USA
CoordinatesTemplate:Coor dms
Altitude1,300 m (4,300 ft)
Weather300 clear nights/year
C. Donald Shane telescope3 m reflector
James Lick telescope91 cm refractor
Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope76 cm reflector
Anna L. Nickel telescope1 m reflector
Crossley telescope0.9 m reflector

Early history

Lick Observatory was the world's first mountain-top observatory.

The observatory was constructed between 1876 and 1887, from a bequest from James Lick. In 1887 Lick's body was buried under the future site of the telescope, with a brass tablet bearing the inscription, "Here lies the body of James Lick."

Before construction could begin, a road to the site had to be built. 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 still follows. Tradition maintains that this road has exactly 360 turns. (This is approximately correct, although uncertainty as to what should count as a turn makes precise verification impossible). Even those who do not normally suffer from motion-sickness find the road challenging.

The 91-cm refracting telescope on Mt. Hamilton was Earth's largest refracting telescope from when it saw first light on January 3, 1888, until the construction of Yerkes in 1897. In April, 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. The location provided excellent viewing performance due to 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 fog that is often seen in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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, 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.

Significant discoveries

Original observatory building and the South (main) Dome, home of the Great Lick Refractor
Original observatory building and the South (main) Dome, home of the Great Lick Refractor

The following astronomical objects were discovered at Lick Observatory:

Looking east from south-central San Jose, Lick Observatory atop Mount Hamilton (left) can be seen on reasonably clear days.
Looking east from south-central San Jose, Lick Observatory atop Mount Hamilton (left) can be seen on reasonably clear days.


Current equipment and locations:

  • the C. Donald Shane 3 m (120-inch) reflector (Shane Dome, Tycho Brahe Peak)
  • the Great Lick 0.9 m (36-inch) refractor (South Dome, Main Building, Observatory Peak)
  • the Carnegie 0.5 m (20-inch) twin refractor (Double Astrograph Dome, Tycho Brahe Peak)
  • the Anna L. Nickel 1 m (40-inch) reflector (North (small) Dome, Main Building)
  • the Crossley 0.9 m (36-inch) reflector (Crossley Dome, Ptolemy Peak)
  • the 0.6 m (24-inch) Coude auxiliary telescope (just South of Shane Dome, Tycho Brahe Peak)
  • the Tauchmann 0.5 m (22-inch) reflector (Tauchmann Dome atop the water tank, Huyghens Peak)
  • CCD Comet Camera 135 mm Nikon camera lens ("The Outhouse" Southwest of the Shane Dome, Tycho Brahe Peak)
  • the Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope (KAIT) 76 cm reflector (24-inch Dome, Kepler Peak)

See also

External link


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools