Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mount Hamilton Observatory

View Mt. Hamilton Observatory in a larger map

Mount Hamilton Observatory

What: Telescope observatory; Scenic viewpoint of Santa Clara valley; Mountain biking
More Info: Free parking; Free admission to the observatory; Restrooms are available; No food service; Please check the weather and visiting hours here before your travel (during winter, roads may be closed due to snowfall); Souvenir shop inside Lick observatory

Lick Observatory

Have you noticed those white dome structures on top of the mountains while driving on 237E or 280 or 101 freeways in Santa Clara/San Jose area? They are the Lick and Shane observatories atop the 4200 feet Mt. Hamilton. Although the GPS says you can reach the observatory in less than an hour from the Silicon Valley, it takes more time to drive along the 19mile narrow, circuitous roads to reach the observatory. And the drive did make our stomachs a little queasy. We were at ease that we did not drive in the nightfall, it would have been a nightmare with no streetlights.

Mt. Hamilton is also popular among the adventurous mountain bikers; I personally think it is unsafe to bike along these narrow roads, especially because the roads are shared with reckless automobile drivers. Well, hats off to those daring mountain bikers.

Lick Telescope

We reached the Lick observatory in an hour and a half and were captivated to see the view of the Santa Clara valley from atop the mountain. We walked inside the observatory, reading the TV screens that enlightened us about the astronomical facts. There are free tours every half hour during which a guide takes you inside the dome to see the 36-inch Lick telescope and talks about the history of the observatory. Pretty interesting and intriguing!

Check out the little souvenir shop inside the observatory; they have cute stuff.

Shane Observatory, as seen from Lick observatory

A short 10min walk from the Lick observatory took us to another observatory which is home to the 120-inch Shane telescope. There are no tours inside the Shane observatory, but there were some TV screens that offered loads of information about the telescope and astronomical feats.

The observatories also have programs during summer when visitors are allowed to view through the telescopes. Click here to check out the events schedule.

View of Santa Clara Valley

Useful Resources: Official Website
Nearby Locations: Joseph D. Grant County Park

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