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MOUNT HAMILTON (KPIX 5) — Scientists at Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton hope to save the 125-year-old facility, after the University of California announced it plans to eliminate all of the observatory’s operating revenue.
“You want to see things with as much detail as possible for certain science goals,” resident astronomer Elinor Gates said.
Gates has developed an invention that measures the turbulence in the atmosphere that blurs images in a telescope, to develop a first -of-its kind camera.
“It gives us images potentially sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope,” Gates said.
Gates lives and works on Mt. Hamilton’s 125 year old Lick Obersvatory, conducting her own research and teaching others in the UC system. “The thing I love about being at Lick Observatory is it is a really special place. It has so much history and is doing so much really cool current research and education,” she said.
Here, they hunt for planets around other stars, and search for supernova explosions in other galaxies.
But this research could be in jeopardy. The University of California has told Lick Observatory their funding will be phased out in the next five years.
It costs $1.3 million dollars a year to run the mountain’s operations and the university is choosing to invest in projects and an observatory in Hawaii.
Gates believes the university has overlooked the value of this location and its technology.
As staff cools off cameras with liquid nitrogen, Gates talked about staff cutbacks and shortened public hours in an attempt to save money. Scientists have turned into fundraisers.
“If we can find a corporate sponsor or a private philanthropist that wants to fund us, that believes in our mission as much as we do, we definitely want to talk to you,” Gates said.
They aren’t giving up without a fight. After all, these are the people who reach for the stars every night and they’re not about to have the doors close now.