UCO/Lick Observatory

Mary Lea & C. Donald Shane

Observational Astronomy Workshop

October 24 - October 28, 2013

Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, CA







Bear Warning



Photos and Data

Information (Updated: 2013-10-15)

A downloadable tri-fold Lick Observatory information leaflet, including driving directions and a map of UCO/Lick installations at the summit of Mount Hamilton are available from Resources.


One activity is a walking tour of Lick Observatory to introduce the telescopes, facilities, and science being undertaken on Mount Hamilton. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes. The walking tour involves climbing over 100 steps and a total walk of over half a mile. Please notify us in advance if you require any special mobility/access consideration(s).

When moving around the site, especially during the hours of darkness, be cautious. Note that Mount Hamilton Road remains a State Highway. Be aware that there are several obstacles (steps, gates, chains, cables, uneven ground) throughout the observatory which can be hazradous if not foreseen.

After safety, science takes priority. It may not be possible to enter certain areas, or remain in certain areas for prolonged intervals, if doing so compromises science operations (e.g. delaying acquisition of calibration data; distracting observers). Additionally, please be advised that staff astronomers remain on-call and may be required to provide support for multiple programs and/or instruments.

There is a contingent of staff resident at the Observatory year-round. There are always staff members (and their families) on both day- and night-shift and thus there are both day- and night-sleepers. Residences are interspersed with other Observatory facilities. Please abate noise and keep disturbance to a miminum.


The weather can be unpredictable. For a forecast, before you depart for Mount Hamilton, visit the following link:

Weather Forecast for Mount Hamilton, California


Even if the weather will be warm during the day it can be surprisingly cold and windy at night. Participants and observers will be spending significant time outside or in unheated telescope enclosures. A warm coat, hat, gloves and to dress in layers is recommended.


It is recommended to bring a flashlight with you since you will be walking between buildings in the dark and flashlights provided with the dorm keys are small (and not all sets of keys have flashlights on the keychains).

Keep a flashlight and your keys on your person at all times to avoid being locked-out of accommodations, Diner and other facilities. Lost, damaged or unreturned keys shall incur penalty replacement charges.

Electronics & Communications

The dormitory rooms and telescope enclosures have WiFi, so bring your laptops (and power supplies) with you (WiFi passwords when you arrive). Cell phone reception is poor on Mount Hamilton. If you leave your phone powered-on, it is likely to run down its battery searching for a signal within a few hours. Ensure you bring the appropriate charging device/cable.

Binoculars (Optional)

For those who own a pair of binoculars, it may be rewarding to bring them with you, to enhance your enjoyment of the landscape, wildlfe and night sky while on Mount Hamilton.

Toiletries and Personal Supplies

There will be little or no opportunity to leave the summit of Mount Hamilton for the duration of the workshop. No toiletries or personal hygeine products (e.g. toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo) are available for purchase on Mount Hamilton, so it is recommended that participants ensure they have sufficient supplies for their needs before ascending Mount Hamilton. Towels are provided in the dormitory accommodations, but some participants may wish to bring personal towels in addition.

Drinking Water

Drawn from springs on the slopes of the mountain and processed through the Observatory's dedicated treatment facility, drinking water on Mount Hamilton ranks among the highest quality in the State. Water in the dormitory accommodations and drinking fountains around the mountain is safe to drink.

Flora and Fauna

The summit of Mount Hamilton is a remote, rural setting with abundant wildlife. Take sensible precautions when moving around: it is recommended to stay on hard-scaped areas and to wear full-length pants and socks, thus reducing contact with poison oak, deer ticks (which are vectors for several diseases, including Lyme) and other hazards. Snakes are not uncommon, the only dangerous variety on Mount Hamilton being rattlesnakes (with flat, diamond shaped, head and ringed tail). It is easy to confuse docile non-venomous gopher snakes with rattlesnakes. Thus, all snakes should be treated with caution. Avoid walking too close to undergrowth and/or leaf litter, where snakes may be nestling. Rodents are common in and around observatory precincts, most often evident by their 1--3 mm long, dark, ovoid faeces -- particularly in hidden or secluded places. Rodent debris should be disposed of carefully, using tools, a facemask and gloves to minimise exposure to severe diseases (such as Hantavirus, Weil's disease, etc). Even in well-frequented areas, such as dormitory rooms and kitchens, rodents eventually gain access, encouraged by the potential of food matter. Seal and store all food packaging after use (e.g. do not leave cookie or snack packets open and unattended). Dispose of food waste and packaging properly. Keep communal areas clean. Larger mammals, foxes, skunks, bobcats and raccoons are year-round residents on Mount Hamilton, their diets supplemented by accessing trash cans. As with all wild animals they can be aggressive when cornered or followed. Rabies is present in California. Mammal faeces may contain several diseases (e.g. raccoon worm). Bears are absent from the Diablo Range, but visitors are referred to the separate Bear Warning elsewhere in the documentation. Occasionally, coyotes are seen. Even more rarely, mountain lions (pumas/cougars) are encountered. Unless sick or starving, these big cats actively avoid humans. However, if you do encounter a mountain lion, do NOT run (which has the effect of triggering the feline hunting instincts). Try to make yourself appear large (e.g. by opening your jacket). If the cat does not move away, make some noise. In extremis, try throwing stones at the animal. Bugs and arachnids are ubiquitous. Those to be most aware of are scorpions, centipedes and one variety of spider. It is a good idea to bring slippers to wear in the accommodations. Check the inside of all footwear before wearing, since scorpions and centipedes which tend to be nocturnal can deliver painful stings and poisonous bites, respectively. Black widow spiders are comparatively rare, preferring minimal disturbance, generally sheltering in dark undisturbed places such as rarely-used closets. If left untreated, black widow bites can be fatal.