Music and stargazing entice summer visitors to Mt. Hamilton's Lick Observatory

The Lick 36-inch refractor telescope. Photo by Laurie Hatch.

The University of California's Lick Observatory offers its 27th season of evening programs for music lovers and astronomy buffs this summer, featuring concerts, lectures, and opportunities to view the night sky through the observatory's history-making telescopes atop Mt. Hamilton.

Music of the Spheres is a benefit summer concert series whose proceeds support the UC Observatories/Lick Observatory (UCO/Lick), a multicampus research unit headquartered at UC Santa Cruz that serves over 100 UC astronomers. Each of the six Music of the Spheres evenings combines a performance by world-acclaimed musicians and a lecture by a renowned astronomy researcher. Afterward, audience members take turns at the historic Lick Telescope, a 36-inch refractor that has been in operation since 1888 and remains the second largest refracting telescope ever built. A cadre of well-trained volunteers assist in these events by sharing their own telescopes and expertise with interested members of the audience.

Music of the Spheres concerts will take place on July 6 and 7, August 3 and 4, and September 7 and 8. Scheduled performances include Celtic music by Golden Bough, new age music of Tingstad & Rumbel, violinist Chung-Pei Ma, jazz by the Kurt Ribak Trio, and guitarists Mimi Fox, Mark Hanson, and Daniel Roest. For additional details and ticket information, visit the Lick Observatory web site.

Tickets for each Music of the Spheres evening are offered at three levels: general ($30), preferred ($100), and VIP ($150). All tickets include the concert, astronomy talk, viewing session through the 36-inch telescope, and a commemorative wineglass or coffee cup. Preferred ticket holders have the additional benefits of reserved seating and a 20 percent discount at the gift shop. A VIP ticket further entitles visitors to a behind-the-scenes tour of the 120-inch Shane reflecting telescope and a light buffet. VIP ticket sales begin on May 8, and preferred and general tickets will be available starting May 15.

Another popular program offered by Lick Observatory is the Summer Visitors Program, which gives the public access to both the 36-inch Lick Telescope and the 40-inch Anna Nickel Reflector, a telescope scientists currently use to spot planets outside the solar system. As with the Music of the Spheres events, amateur astronomer volunteers provide additional outside viewing and informal talks. Each program also features two speakers to ensure an interesting evening even if bad weather prevents stargazing. The lectures include a history of Lick Observatory and multimedia presentations by Lick astronomers.

Dates for the Summer Visitors Program are June 22 and 23 at 8 p.m., July 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m., and August 17 and 18 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 and will be made available through a lottery system, with a limit of four tickets per request. The lottery will begin May 8 and continue through May 18. Additional ticket information is available online.

Lick Observatory is located on the summit of Mt. Hamilton in the Diablo Range east of San Jose. Driving time from San Jose is about one hour via Mt. Hamilton Road (Route 130). Founded in 1888, Lick Observatory remains among the most productive research observatories in the world.

Additional information about visiting Lick Observatory is available on the observatory's web site or by calling the Lick Observatory Gift Shop at (408) 274-5061 during business hours.