The James Lick Telescope is an antique refracting 36 inches (91 cm) telescope built in 1889 that can still be viewed through today (public viewing is allowed on a limited basis). Also called the "Great Lick Refractor" or simply "Lick Refractor", it is the third-largest refracting telescope in the world, surpassed by the Yerkes Observatory 40-inch and the Swedish 1-m Solar Telescope, and was the largest until 1897. It is located at the University of California's Lick Observatory atop Mount Hamilton at an elevation of 4,209 feet (1,283 m) above sea level. The telescope is housed inside a dome which is powered by hydraulics to raise and lower the floor, rotate the dome, and drive the clock mechanism to track the Earth's rotation. The original hydraulic system still operates today, with the exception that the original wind-powered pumps to fill the reservoirs have been replaced with electric pumps. James Lick is entombed below the telescope's observing room's floor.
Here are some excerpts from the July 1902 description of the telescope (out of copyright):
- The height of the marble floor of the main building above mean sea level is 4209 feet. On a closely connected peak half a mile to the east of the Observatory, and 50 feet higher, are the reservoirs from which water for household and photographic purposes is distributed. A spring about 350 feet below and one mile to the northeast of the Observatory supplies excellent water. Another peak seven-eighths of a mile to the east is the summit of Mount Hamilton; it is 180 feet higher than the Observatory, and supports the reservoirs supplying power for moving the dome, raising the movable floor, and winding the driving clock of the great telescope. This system receives its supply from the winter rains falling on the roofs; the water being pumped to the reservoirs on the higher peak by means of windmills.
- The movable floor in the dome is the first of the kind to be constructed. It is 60 feet (18 m) in diameter, and can be raised or lowered through a distance of 16 1⁄2 feet (5.0 m), its purpose being to bring the observer within convenient reach of the eye end of the telescope.
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