Last year my birthday fell on a Sunday, but my wife booked a session with one of her clients(!) So I decided to make the most of the day with my son and do something we would both enjoy. I packed a lunch and we drove to Lick Observatory at the top of Mt Hamilton (4209′) to check out some telescopes! We chatted for most of the drive, but about 10 minutes before our arrival, he fell fast asleep. Fortunately, I had a book to read… and about 45 minutes later, the fun began…
Kaiden’s favorite subject after math was astronomy so we were both looking forward to seeing the telescopes and we were not disappointed. There is a great free talk on the history of the observatory that’s presented in the 36-inch telescope dome where they house the Great Lick Refractor. The few, blurry pictures I remembered to take really don’t do justice to the experience, but neither do the high quality pictures on their website – you need to see it in person. The Great Lick Refractor is 57 feet long and weighs over 25,000 lbs!
We also hiked mans health over to the smaller observatories to learn more about the history, including the logistics it took to get the site built and the precision equipment set up. I think the video was playing in the Shane Dome where you can see the 120 Inch Reflector. I thought Kaiden might get bored by the looped video presentation, but after watching the last half, we watched it from the beginning.
We ended up spending even more time outside enjoying the sunshine and great views!
I would highly recommend this experience for any kid who is interested in astronomy. It further renewed Kaiden’s desire to be an astronaut and he like to be clear that he does not want to be an astronomer, but he still plans on discovering a star larger than NML Cygni or UY Scuti!
Tips for Planning a Trip
- Click the links above to find out what events are schedule
- At least read the visitor page
- Have a full tank of gas
- Check the weather
- Take a jacket – it gets windy
- Pack a lunch
- Take binoculars and enjoy the view!