Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Crisis at the Historic Lick Observatory


Lick Observatory, which went into operation in 1888 and was the first mountain-top observatory, is threatened by the budget axe at the University of California. The University President's Office has said that, by 2017-18, it will have to close the still-active observatory (which played a key role in the discovery of the acceleration of the universe, an observation that won the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics.)

You can read the full story in the alumni magazine for the U. of California: http://alumni.berkeley.edu/california-magazine/just-in/2014-02-19/not-licked-yet-fight-keep-iconic-uc-observatory-open

But those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area next week can hear Prof. Alex Filippenko, the President of the Lick Observatory Council, give a free public talk about the latest situation (and what is being discovered at Lick). The talk is Wednesday evening, Feb. 26th, at 7 pm in the Smithwick Theater at Foothill College in Los Altos.

It's part of the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, which I have had the pleasure of organizing and moderating for the last 14 years. For more information about the talk and the speaker, and for directions, see:http://www.foothill.edu/news/newsfmt.php?sr=2&rec_id=3270

From its early discovery of the fifth moon of Jupiter's to the recent findings of planets orbiting other stars, the Lick Observatory has a rich history of astronomical work. Plus, it's a premier educational facility, training young astronomers and welcoming tens of thousands of visitors to its spectacular site.

If you don't live in the area, but would like to know more or would like to help, check out the "Save Lick" website:
http://www.ucolick.org/SaveLick/

(The attached photo, taken by Rick Baldridge of the Peninsula Astronomical Society, shows Lick's oldest building in front of the rising full moon.)


I have a special fondness for the Lick Observatory because its first director helped ound the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, where I was the executive director for 14 years.  Plus it's a Bay Area treasure, and its closing would be a tremendous loss for Bay Area astronomy.

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