Good night at Lick

by Albert Highe

I was at Lick last night next to Rich. Rich is being too modest. I think opinions of visiting public and experienced observers were unanimous - the view through Rich's AP180EDT was by far the best view on the mountain. These weren't just polite opinions expressed for Rich's benefit. I overhead numerous conversations indoors as well. People raved about the views and told others to make sure they looked through Rich's scope.

I also looked through the 36" late in the evening, about 12:45AM when the seeing was still very good. The 36" had been stopped down to 20" and a red filter was in place to remove (I was told) substantial chromatic aberration. The view was rather odd. Imagine a high contrast image of mars sitting below a pool of water. Most of the image was blurred. Small sections of clarity moved randomly across the surface. It looked like I was viewing through a small circular piece of glass that had been placed on top of the water - like viewing the ocean bottom through a glass-bottom boat. In the region of the "glass window", the view showed incredible contrast and detail - superior to Rich's scope. This window appeared to be about 1/4 the diameter of Mars' disk. So, I could piece together the details in my mind, but it wasn't a very pleasing view. In contrast, the entire view in Rich's scope was in focus. Also, very faint markings were visible in Rich's scope that only appeared after studying the image for 20 seconds. These were not visible in the stopped-down 36", probably because the "glass window" never stayed on one region long enough.

Still, I was in awe of the dome and the 36" itself. I was treated to a ride on the elevated floor. All of it is quite a feat of engineering and skilled craftsmanship.

Thanks for the wonderful views, Rich.