The Lick Observatory Series: Scope 1 - the 36-inch Lick Refracting Telescope

Photo Credit: Diana Mulvihill for

While we were taking pictures at Lick Observatory for my Cosmopolitan article, I was able to learn about their most historic and impressive telescopes. Over the next few weeks I'll post more pictures from our shoot along with details about the amazing telescopes that co-starred in these images.

Up first: The beautiful 36-inch Lick Refracting Telescope.

This telescope was built way back in 1887! In fact, one of the two original iconic Lick Observatory domes was built specifically for it. When it is used, part of the dome opens up so that the telescope can view the night sky.

Today, it's the 3rd largest refracting telescope in the world! The 36-inch refers to the diameter of the two refracting lenses on the skyward end of the 57-foot long telescope. Refracting telescopes use lenses to focus light - an old technology that was used for the original eyeglasses 👓 and spyglasses. Most modern telescopes today are actually *reflector* telescopes which use mirrors to focus light more effectively.

Photo Credit: Diana Mulvihill for . 

Photo Credit: Diana Mulvihill for

Photo: Emily Calandrelli

Photo: Emily Calandrelli

This telescope was responsible for a number of history discoveries including the discovery of Jupiter's 5th moon (at the time, only 4 of Jupiter's moons were known. It's now known that Jupiter has over 60 moons.) The telescope was also used for lunar photography, many of these images are still used in science textbooks over the world.

Today, the 36-inch refracting telescope is used mostly for teaching purposes. Every once in a while, it's also used to track the orbits of binary star systems. Above all, it stands as a beautiful historic monument that can be viewed today by the public.

The Lick Observatory is open to the public Thursday - Sunday 12:00pm - 5:00pm.

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