EXPLORE THE UNIVERSE: Looking Further : Spectroscopy : Lick Observatory
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Lick Observatory

Lick Observatory

Lick Observatory sits atop Mount Hamilton, near San Jose, California. It boasts the second-largest refracting telescope in the world, the 36-inch refractor, which is still in use today. The sheer size of the Lick lens provided enough light to allow the slow and insensitive photographic plates of the day to record feeble stellar spectra. Within the first two decades after it opened in 1888, Lick Observatory came to dominate the world in the production of high-quality radial velocities from photographic stellar spectra. Radial velocity, the speed of motion in the line of sight, was thought to be the key to revealing the motions of the known Universe.





Mills Spectrograph

The original Mills spectrograph was Lick's first photographic spectrograph. It took photographs of star spectra that allowed astronomers to measure the patterns of dark lines in those spectra more accurately than by visual means using a star spectroscope. Those patterns helped them determine the motions and compositions of stars. The photographic spectra produced at Lick enabled turn-of-the-century astronomers to explore the motions of the Milky Way.


Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum