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Cosmic Voyage

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Submitted By rossmartinet
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Lick Observatory can be found atop, Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose, California. As if it were a massive white beacon, the observatory drew us closer as we kept a steady pace windy up one valley and down another, moving along the hillside. After a one hour drive, up and windy and awfully narrow road my girlfriend and I arrived at Lick Observatory. Far away from the relatively bright lights of San Jose, nestled atop a calm and peaceful mountain top, the observatory can be seen by nearly the entire valley, just as James lick intended. Although most of San Jose citizens pay no attention to the observatory, it has quietly be operating for over a 120 years. Originally the observatory was built to house The Great Lick 36-inch refracting telescope but has since added 6 modern reflecting telescopes. Theses modern telescopes and technological advancements have change astronomy and Lick Observatory has adapted.

Most observatories are located away from large cities and on top of tall mountains and Lick observatory is no different. James lick originally wanted to build the telescope in downtown San Francisco because he wanted to the worlds largest telescope to be in a place where everyone could see it. Due to the obvious effects of light pollution he was persuaded to build in another location. Light pollution is the “brightening of the night sky by lighting scattered from artificial outdoor lighting” (Backman-Seeds 62). Mt. Hamilton was a perfect compromise for the location for several reasons. Astronomers prefer to place telescopes at higher elevations because the air is thinner and more transparent and they also choose a location where air flow is less turbulent (Backman-Seeds 63). In addition to the benefits associated with astronomy Lick wanted the telescope to be visible and it is certainly visible from majority of the south bay. Growing up in Morgan Hill I always notice this great white land mark on top of a hill, so far away. Just as I never would of guessed how impressive the building was as we neared it on our drive, I was not not prepared for sight on the telescope.

The gigantic, Great Lick 36-inch refractor is housed in a equally large and impressive bi-parting dome. As I entered the room I was first stuck by the night time temperature but quickly warmed up as I focused my eyes on the 57 foot long telescope. The dome is not heated so it maintains a night time like temperature permanently. This helps slow the telescope from aging by protecting it from warping or even condensation due to increase and decrease in temperature. 36 inches refers to the actual diameter of the two lenses on the elevated end of the telescope. Its hard to believe that this was constructed over 120 years ago its still on the world largest refracting telescopes but after I learned more about refracting and reflecting telescopes it became obvious why they no longer build refracting telescopes.…...

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