CLEO 2014 Tip: Visit Lick Observatory

The dome at the Lick Observatory
The dome at the Lick Observatory

Going to CLEO 2013 in San Jose? Be sure to set aside half a day and drive up to one of the world’s major astronomical observatories, the Lick Observatory in Mount Hamilton, California.

There are many places along the freeway and in San Jose where you can see the white dome on the mountain ridge.

The history is fascinating. It was built between 1880 and 1888. The Great Lick Refractor, 36-inch aperture, was the world’s largest refractor until the Yerkes 40-inch was built.

You will appreciate the engineering that went into the design. For example, not having electricity, mechanical controls were hydraulic, using water pressure from a nearby stream.
Pivoting about the center line, the eyepiece end of the telescope clearly raised or lowered as the telescope changed elevation angle. Thus, the observer sat on a platform that could be raised or lowered accordingly.

Directions to Lick Observatory

Lick Observatory is located on the summit of Mt. Hamilton in the Diablo Range east of San Jose. To get there from Interstates 101, 280, 680, take Alum Rock Avenue exit from Interstate 680 north. Turn right onto Alum Rock Avenue. Take another right on Mt. Hamilton Road (California Route 130). Allow about one hour from San Jose, and please drive carefully as the road is good, but winding*.
Open, Thursday – Sunday, noon to 5 PM

*TRIVIA: the pitch of the winding road was determined by the weight of the load that could be hauled by a team of 6 mules.

This is a not-to-be missed visit: Lick Observatory, Mount Hamilton, California

Reader Interactions