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From an article by Kelly Beatty in Sky & Telescope, November 30, 2014:

A year ago, the situation looked bleak for historic Lick Observatory, the venerable 125-year-old mountaintop facility that overlooks California’s Silicon Valley. Faced with huge commitments to support its investment in Hawaii’s Keck Telescopes and to help fund the billion-dollar Thirty Meter Telescope, officials at the University of California (which owns and operates Lick) decided there just wasn’t enough money to go around. So they decreed that Lick should be divested from the university and find its own funding, with a “glide path” toward self-sufficiency to begin within two years and be completed by 2018.

Credit: Debra and Peter Ceravolo

Credit: Debra and Peter Ceravolo

Needless to say, the September 2013 announcement rocked the astronomical community in a way that few of the area’s earthquakes ever could. Although “closure” was never actually stipulated, it loomed as the most likely outcome for a venerable institution that held a premier role in U.S. astronomy a century ago. Prominent members of the astronomical community cried out in protest. Cosmologist (and author of The Cosmos) Alex Filippenko (UC Berkeley) led a “Save Lick Observatory” campaign. California congressmen petitioned the university’s president to reconsider the decision. The area’s amateur astronomers mobilized for a fight. Apparently, all that high-profile resistance – coupled with some belt-tightening – has spared Lick from being cast adrift.

While the observatory’s short-term prospects are now relatively secure, proponents are taking steps to ensure its long-term survival. A Lick Observatory Council, involving Filippenko, other scientists, and private citizens, has started private fundraising efforts and to expand the observatory’s outreach and education programs.

Links: the full article in Sky & Telescope; Lick Observatory public information.

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