Monday, January 13, 2014

Lick Observatory Council's Letter to the Merc

The iconic Lick Observatory is in danger of being shut down following the end of UC funding in 2018. The Lick Observatory Council has launched a campaign to find the support needed to keep it in operation. Below is a letter that was written to the Mercury News:


Lick Observatory's work deserves support
Writing on behalf of the Lick Observatory Council, we strongly urge the University of California to reconsider its unwise decision to end all funding for Lick Observatory. Lick science remains vibrant, with programs to discover Earth-sized, potentially habitable planets and to develop technology enabling ground-based telescopes to see more sharply than the Hubble Space Telescope. More than 100 UC astronomers and students use Lick each year for groundbreaking research.
Lick is also a unique educational resource for the Bay Area. Thirty-five thousand people visit annually to tour the telescopes, hear lectures by renowned astronomers and behold the universe through the eyepiece of the great refractor.
We are committed to keeping this gem alive and thriving. Our vision is compelling: a working observatory and major science education center for research, outreach and inspiration. We invite the university to support and partner with us in this quest.
Would you like to help save Lick? Learn more at .
James A. Katzman
Member, Lick Observatory Council Saratoga
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  1. As a San Jose resident, I am ambivalent about Lick Observatory's possible demise. I have never felt like Lick Observatory did anything to make itself part of San Jose. Granted, it is a state institution, but somehow it just never felt like it wanted to be known as located in San Jose.

    Griffith Observatory in LA has integrated itself into the LA community, and is a big tourist spot for that city, while still able to carry out its scientific duties. When you come to LA, you know you got to visit Griffith.

    Lick Observatory just has never done that. 35,000 people annually is nothing, that's like a week's worth of folks at Griffith, if not less. When you come to San Jose, whether by the City's marketing ignoring Lick or vice-versa, Lick is the last thing on any one's mind, when it really should be one of our City's gems! For all the efforts our city has made for Lick (our ugly yellow streetlights stand as a shining example of that), all we got was some God-forsaken asteroids named after our city, and pretty much we get ignored by Lick from there.

    When I was a child, I never knew about Lick. No field trips or studies or even local historic topics. San Jose schools sucks though, they never taught anything about San Jose's own history, but I get a good load of SF's. Hell, I went on two field trips to San Juan Bautista out in the fvckin boonies! Meanwhile here is a magnificent observatory housing the 3rd-largest refractor telescope in the WORLD right next door to my city, yet no one told me about it until I grew up and found out for myself.

    The City and Lick should have formented a better relationship. If Lick was a big tourism spot, it might not have been in the predicament it is now. Maybe we should have build a gondola going up to Lick from Grant Park back in the 60's? Who knows...somebody dropped the ball on the SJ-Lick relationship...and that's that.

  2. I mean, just look at that Save Lick website. There is a section entitled "What is Lick Observatory?" Can you believe that? That's how far off the radar Lick is! Nobody knows about it! It should have been a place passed down through generations, and known by all in the South Bay. It should not have taken Lick 130 something years to finally come out and tell the rest of the South Bay about its existence.

    It's stupifying!

  3. Very interesting takes on Lick Observatory by Bob. I think the biggest drawback for Lick not being embraced by SJ and its citizens is access to the summit; the winding, nearly hour and a half drive is horrendous! I remember as a kid going to Lick with my parents and getting car sick along the way; almost hit a few cows on the road as well. Don't think taking a school bus up to Lick is in the realm of possibilities (?) because of all the sharp, steep turns.

    I know Josh and I have thrown this back of the napkin idea out before, but an aerial tramway from the Evergreen area to the Mt. Hamilton summit would be complete boon to tourism and really open up the observatory to more citizens/tourists alike. Yes, such an idea would cost money, but we live in $ilicon Valley for crying out loud! Imagine the easily accessible vistas on a clear day, along with an educational/historical experience to boot; make it happen $ilicon Valley!