The Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton, near San Jose, California, USA
© Jeffrey Lewis/Tandem Stills + Motio
Legacy of light. Lick Observatory, California, USA
Shrouded in snow on the summit of Mount Hamilton, in California’s Diablo Range, lies the world’s first permanently occupied mountaintop observatory. Constructed between 1876 and 1887, the Lick Observatory has been the site of significant discoveries including several of Jupiter’s moons and other planetary systems. If you’re wondering about that name – it’s a tribute to the American businessman James Lick, who set aside US $700,000 to build a facility that would be home to a “telescope superior to, and more powerful than, any telescope yet made”.
His wish came true. The refracting telescope with a 36in (91cm) lens on Mount Hamilton was the largest that had ever been built when it saw first light on 3 January, 1888. Nine years later, a 40in (101cm) refractor was built at Yerkes Observatory, in the US state of Wisconsin. Sadly, Lick died before his vision became a reality, but his name lives on. His body is even buried beneath the telescope, which continues to scan the skies today.