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Fun trip to Lick Observatory

Hsin I. Huang

The Peterson Middle School Project Astro Astronomy Club visit Mt. Hamilton.


Driving up the 20+ twisting miles on Highway 130, I kept telling myself that it would be a big challenge to bike all the way. October 1, 2002, incidentally on the 126th anniversary of James Lick's death, we took 32 students from Peterson Middle School, Sunnyvale, who were members of the Project Astro Astronomy Club up to the Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton.

The place is usually not open to students. But one of the astronomers in our Project Astro club is Dr. Elinor Gates who happens to be working there. She made a special arrangement and was our tour guide throughout.

Of the 9 telescopes, Ellie chose to show us the Shane 120-inch and the good old 36-inch refractor. The students were intrigued and asked many interesting questions. The 120-inch, built in 1950's, is where Ellie does her adaptive optics study and where our VP Bob Havner plays his role as a night owl (October issue of SJAA Ephemeris). One of highlights of this trip was riding the dome in one revolution. It was just like being on a giant merry-go-round. Wait, are we moving or is Ellie spinning in the middle? It's all relative.

At the 36-inch, built in 1880's, Ellie told a story that James' ghost came out at night and scared a new astronomer such that he finally gave up his precious time working alone in that observatory.

Who says working for Project Astro is a tough job and no fun?

Oh, coming down the hills by bike would also be a challenge, but a much easier one.


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