The historic Lick 36" Refractor was constructed at the behest of James
Lick, a wealthy California businessman. The telescope was constructed
in the 1880s and saw first light in January 1888. James Lick died before the
construction of his observatory began, however he is interred at the base
of the 36" telescope pier, making the dome and telescope his tomb and memorial.
At the time of its construction, the 36" Refractor was the largest telescope
in the world and today remains the second largest refractor ever constructed.
Today, the telescope is occasionally used for scientific
observations, but is primarily used for education and public outreach.
The two 36" diameter lenses of the telescope are made of crown and flint glass and were ground by Alvin Clark and Sons of Boston. The mount of the telescope was built by Warner and Swasey Co. in Cleveland, Ohio. The focal length of the telescope is 57.8 ft (694 inches or 1763.0 cm) and the focal ratio is f/19.3. The open lower tube diameter of 12 inches gives a field of view of 59.3 arcminutes.
The 36" Refractor is not a computer controlled telescope and has only tracking motors, thus the telescope must be slewed by hand. This poses unique hazards in the dome and when working around the telescope.
Lick Observatory provides limited facility instruments for use at the 36" Refractor: visual eyepieces, a bifilar micrometer, and the astrometric camera (NB: instrument may no longer be supported as a facility instrument - Jan 2008). Observers wishing to provide their own instrument should consult with a support astronomer for information on mounting instruments at the 36" Refractor for feasibility before applying for telescope time.
The Lick 36" Refractor is available to the University of California
astronomical community by subscription.
Call for Small Telescope Proposals
Small telescope observing time application forms The 36" Refractor is a user-operated telescope. All new users must be checked out by a resident astronomer on their first night. Checkouts may require multiple nights depending the user's experience level. Please request support on your time application. Please direct questions to a Mount Hamilton support astronomer, firstname.lastname@example.org.