If you’re been in the Bay Area and see a far-area white dome on the top of a mountain, you’re probably looking at Lick Observatory, home to the second largest telescope in the U.S. (as well as many other telescopes). We made it up there a few weekends back for a night of their Music of the Spheres concert series. The drive up was treacherous, and involved a lot of driving up the mountain precariously right next to sudden cliffs with no guard rails. Needless to say, we were happy when we approached the Observatory (though I was not looking forward to the ride home in the dark).
We arrived around 7:30 so we were able to look around before the sunset. The view was incredible, like being on the top of the world (or at least, top of the Bay Area). Here’s a view of some of the windy roads we drove up to get to the Observatory:
Finally, we got there! We were allowed to wander around a bit, then an hour-long concert. After that we attended a great lecture about Adaptive Optics. We were able to look through some of the Observatory’s telescopes, and later we saw Jupiter through some amateur astronomers’ telescope outside of the building. Here’s one of the telescopes we looked through:
It’s a bit of a drive (over an hour from South Bay), but totally worth it. If you can get them, the Summer Visitor Program tickets are significantly cheaper and feature two astronomy talks (but no concert or free mug). They sell out almost immediately though, or so I’ve heard. Not that I didn’t enjoy the concert, but when you drive 1.5 hours to an Observatory, astronomy is the main attraction =)