From UC Santa Cruz: “Campus, Silicon Valley leaders celebrate Lick Observatory’s 130th anniversary”

UC Santa Cruz

From UC Santa Cruz

UCSC Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, California, Altitude 1,283 m (4,209 ft)

July 24, 2018
Scott Hernandez-Jason
shj@ucsc.edu

UC Santa Cruz and Silicon Valley leaders on Monday marked the 130th anniversary of Lick Observatory, which has been at the forefront of astronomical research since 1888.

“It is impossible to overemphasize the value of Lick Observatory,” Chancellor George Blumenthal said. “While the UC Observatory headquarters is on the UC Santa Cruz campus, Lick and UCO are an excellent example of UC’s ‘Power of Ten.’ UC’s 10-campus resource base allows for the building and maintenance of world-class facilities for education and research that no single campus could manage.”

The University of California owns and operates the facility, which was founded by a bequest from James Lick. The $700,000 gift was the largest philanthropic gift in the history of science and would amount to $1.2 billion today.

State Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) presented a state resolution to Blumenthal on behalf of the South Bay legislative delegation in honor of Lick Observatory. The presentation took place at the observatory’s 36-inch Great Refractor telescope.

Lick Observatory’s 36-inch Great Great Refractor telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building

“Human progress does not end with us looking up at the stars, but rather challenging ourselves to define what the next frontier will be,” said Wieckowski, the chair of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. “We are here to recognize Lick for being a resource for our state for more than a century, and we are grateful to the team who continues to maintain this observatory. The research and educational programs here not only broaden our horizons, they inspire students who will become the next generation of astronomers.”

Lick serves astronomers from all eight University of California astronomy campuses, as well as Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Its users range in age from undergraduates to the most senior astronomers in the UC system. More than 100 observers are pursuing science programs at Lick at any given time. It is also the UC’s chief site for testing new technologies and instruments for optical astronomy. The technical facilities at UC Santa Cruz and UCLA upgrade existing instruments and develop new instruments for Lick Observatory.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese credited the observatory with helping make the area an 19th century tech hub.

“San Jose—Silicon Valley’s—iconic innovation started here on this mountain top,” he said. The milestones of innovation are reflected along the road put to Mt. Hamilton.”

See the full article here .


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UCO Lick Shane Telescope
UCO Lick Shane Telescope interior
Shane Telescope at UCO Lick Observatory, UCSC

Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

UC Santa Cruz campus
The University of California, Santa Cruz, opened in 1965 and grew, one college at a time, to its current (2008-09) enrollment of more than 16,000 students. Undergraduates pursue more than 60 majors supervised by divisional deans of humanities, physical & biological sciences, social sciences, and arts. Graduate students work toward graduate certificates, master’s degrees, or doctoral degrees in more than 30 academic fields under the supervision of the divisional and graduate deans. The dean of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering oversees the campus’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs.

UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

Lick Observatory's Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building
Lick Observatory’s Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building

Search for extraterrestrial intelligence expands at Lick Observatory
New instrument scans the sky for pulses of infrared light
March 23, 2015
By Hilary Lebow
1
The NIROSETI instrument saw first light on the Nickel 1-meter Telescope at Lick Observatory on March 15, 2015. (Photo by Laurie Hatch) UCSC Lick Nickel telescope

Astronomers are expanding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm with detectors tuned to infrared light at UC’s Lick Observatory. A new instrument, called NIROSETI, will soon scour the sky for messages from other worlds.

“Infrared light would be an excellent means of interstellar communication,” said Shelley Wright, an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego who led the development of the new instrument while at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Wright worked on an earlier SETI project at Lick Observatory as a UC Santa Cruz undergraduate, when she built an optical instrument designed by UC Berkeley researchers. The infrared project takes advantage of new technology not available for that first optical search.

Infrared light would be a good way for extraterrestrials to get our attention here on Earth, since pulses from a powerful infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from great distances. It also takes less energy to send information using infrared signals than with visible light.

Frank Drake, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and director emeritus of the SETI Institute, said there are several additional advantages to a search in the infrared realm.

“The signals are so strong that we only need a small telescope to receive them. Smaller telescopes can offer more observational time, and that is good because we need to search many stars for a chance of success,” said Drake.

The only downside is that extraterrestrials would need to be transmitting their signals in our direction, Drake said, though he sees this as a positive side to that limitation. “If we get a signal from someone who’s aiming for us, it could mean there’s altruism in the universe. I like that idea. If they want to be friendly, that’s who we will find.”

Scientists have searched the skies for radio signals for more than 50 years and expanded their search into the optical realm more than a decade ago. The idea of searching in the infrared is not a new one, but instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light only recently became available.

“We had to wait,” Wright said. “I spent eight years waiting and watching as new technology emerged.”

Now that technology has caught up, the search will extend to stars thousands of light years away, rather than just hundreds. NIROSETI, or Near-Infrared Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, could also uncover new information about the physical universe.

“This is the first time Earthlings have looked at the universe at infrared wavelengths with nanosecond time scales,” said Dan Werthimer, UC Berkeley SETI Project Director. “The instrument could discover new astrophysical phenomena, or perhaps answer the question of whether we are alone.”

NIROSETI will also gather more information than previous optical detectors by recording levels of light over time so that patterns can be analyzed for potential signs of other civilizations.

“Searching for intelligent life in the universe is both thrilling and somewhat unorthodox,” said Claire Max, director of UC Observatories and professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. “Lick Observatory has already been the site of several previous SETI searches, so this is a very exciting addition to the current research taking place.”

NIROSETI will be fully operational by early summer and will scan the skies several times a week on the Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, located on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose.

The NIROSETI team also includes Geoffrey Marcy and Andrew Siemion from UC Berkeley; Patrick Dorval, a Dunlap undergraduate, and Elliot Meyer, a Dunlap graduate student; and Richard Treffers of Starman Systems. Funding for the project comes from the generous support of Bill and Susan Bloomfield.