A trip to LICK observatory, March 3, 2001

I've been e-mailing Dr. Li of Berkley for several years now. When I told him that I would be in San Jose for a few days he said that he would give me a tour of Lick Observatory. Knowing a good think when I see one, I jumped at the chance.

Getting there is pretty easy, just take the freeway south to Alum Rock road east then get off on route 130.
The road going up to Lick Observatory is very twisty, I could not go faster than 20 MPH (35 KPH) and still feel safe. Trip took about 1.5 hours. There are no guardrails. The drop on the side of the road is very steep.
Finally I got to the top of the mountain. There I found Lick Observatory.
This image is looking back down to San Jose. First notice the snow. That is a rare event in this part of the world. Second, notice that there is no guardrail, and there is about a 200-foot (90- meter) drop here.
After a few minutes I found Dr. Li. He had been up all night observing with the 3-meter telescope, taking spectrum of some recent Supernovae. We talked for awhile, then we went up to the Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope (KAIT) for a look around. The white car on the right hand side of the image is my rental car.
Here is an image of Dr. Weidong Li beside the plaque dedicating KAIT.
This is the KAIT console. It's a small SUN workstation (smaller than the one I have at work). The warm room is in the north side of the observatory.
Here we have a bank of PCs running LINUX, which serve as a disk farm, and to control some of the functions of the telescope.
The breaker panel. Here all of the motors, which run KAIT, are controlled.
This is the telescope itself; it is sitting on the south side of the dome.
This is the guide camera.
Here is the filter wheel and the main imager (on the bottom).
KAIT's primary mirror is not shielded, as the telescope runs mostly in robotic mode.
The secondary has small motors on it so that it can be adjusted remotely. KAIT will automatically re-focus itself every hour or so.
Dr. Li was showing me last night's data, and this popped up. This is the discovery image of 2001Z just hours old when I took this screen shot.
This is a very important switch. It puts the telescope in either "remote" or "manual" mode. If you leave it in manual, then somebody has to switch it to "remote" or you're not getting any observing done. Dr. Li checked this switch before we locked up the KAIT dome.
This is the dome for the 3-meter telescope (which Dr. Li was on the night before). Very big.
The control room for the 3 meter. Lots of space. As you can see, this room is definitely not on the public tour. It was manned when we got there, and we asked permission before we went into the dome.
The "business end" of the 3-meter telescope. This thing is BIG.
The base of this instrument is the spectrograph used to find the spectra of Supernovae.
This is the prime focus cage. It replaces the secondary.
This telescope is on a giant fork mount. Notice Dr. Li standing under the main gear.
Back to the main building. This is the view to the north, and where the public tours start.
There are lots of nice pictures on the wall, both here and in another small room nearby. There's also a little tourist shop here. Some of the staff lives up on the top of this mountain year round.
The dome for the Lick refractor. The second largest refractor ever built. Commissioned in 1888.
The big Lick refractor.
This telescope is meant to be dragged around by hand. Since you would need a very tall ladder to get up to the top it was decided to make the floor go up and down instead.
These big jacks are used to rise and lower the floor (this is off the public tour as well).
James Lick is entombed in the base of the big refractor. He died before it was completed.
The other dome in the main building contains the Nickel telescope which is a 40 inch (1 meter) telescope. This telescope is almost too big for the dome that it's in.
This telescope is fully modern, with a control room, and looks ready to go.
At around 3:00 the clouds started to roll in. It turns out that this was the beginning of some very nasty weather.
I took this shot of Mount Hamilton several days later from the window of my hotel in San Jose.

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    David Bishop
    Last modified: Tue Jun 25 13:13:49 EDT 2002