Sunday, July 22, 2007

An Evening at the Lick Observatory

Last night I finally did something I've been wanting to do since moving to the bay area, visit the Lick Observatory.

In the summer, for three weekends, the observatory has a summer visitor program where guests can partake in a lecture and look through the 36" and 40" telescopes. Tickets are usually sold out, so its done as a lottery. I was fortunately enough to get two tickets for last night.

We started the evening by attending a lecture by Kai Noeske on the history of galaxies and stars. I found the lecture more appropriate for junior high kids.

We looked through the 36" telescope first (pictured to the right) which was trained on the Wild Duck Cluster (M11). It was an interesting experience looking at the cluster through such a large telescope. I've seen M11 on my scope but I've not been able to resolve so many stars so clearly with just the naked eye.

It took a considerable amount of waiting before we could look through the 40" telescope, which was pointed towards Jupiter. Along with Jupiter, 3 of the 4 Galilean moons were visible. Io and Europa were clearly visible and Ganymede was in transit (though the transit was just ending so it was still easily visible).

In addition, amateur astronomers had their telescopes set up in the parking lot behind the observatory. We managed to get a view of the Ring Nebula through an 8" SCT and a Dob.

It was a fun evening overall, and I think I'll try to get tickets again next year. Though if I get VIP tickets Music of Spheres concert I also get a tour of the 120" telescope (a sight to see I am told).

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