Evening concerts and rare telescope viewings draw visitors to UC’s Lick Observatory

Lick main building
A full moon rises over the Lick Observatory Main Building. (Photo by Laurie Hatch)
music of the spheres concert
A guitar performance during the Music of the Spheres summer concert series. (Photo by Michael Bolte)

For 35 years the Summer Series program at UC's Lick Observatory has drawn concert fans and astronomy devotees to the summit of Mt. Hamilton for live music, evening astronomy lectures from world-renowned scientists, and the opportunity to view celestial objects through two historic telescopes.

The “Music of the Spheres” concert series gives the public a rare glimpse of the observatory at night, and all proceeds from the event benefit Lick Observatory. Due to the popularity of the summer program, a fifth concert evening has been added to lineup this year.

Each event features a musical performance, an astronomy lecture by a scientist, and a history presentation about Lick Observatory’s rich past. Afterwards, guests take turns viewing celestial objects through the 36-inch Great Lick Refractor and the 40-inch Nickel Reflector. Guests have additional opportunities to stargaze with small ground telescopes provided by amateur astronomers.

The “Music of the Spheres” concerts take place June 27 (San Jose Jazz’s Aaron Lington; speaker Peter Jenniskens of NASA Ames), July 11 (Oscar Reynolds Trio; speaker Aaron Romanowsky, San Jose State Univ.), July 25 (Ken Emerson; speaker Melissa Graham, UC Berkeley), August 8 (Highland Way; speaker J. Xavier Prochaska, UC Santa Cruz), and August 22 (White Album Ensemble; speaker Michael Bolte, UC Santa Cruz). General, preferred, and VIP tickets will be available. For additional details and ticket information, visit ucolick.org/summer.

The “Evenings with the Stars” program gives the public a chance to view through the 36-inch Great Lick Refractor and the 40-inch Nickel Reflector as well. Similar to the “Music of the Spheres” events, each program features an astronomy lecture by a “star” scientist, and a history presentation. Amateur astronomers also set up ground telescopes so that guests can get additional telescope time.

Dates for the Summer Visitors Program are June 12 (speaker Raja Guthathakurta, UC Santa Cruz), June 13 (speaker Martin Gaskill, UC Santa Cruz), June 26 (speaker Graeme Smith, UC Santa Cruz), July 10 (speaker Connie Rockosi, UC Santa Cruz), July 24 (speaker Mark Ammons, Lawrence Livermore National Lab), August 7 (speaker Geoff Marcy, UC Berkeley), and August 21 (Andreas Burkert, University of Munich). Tickets are $20. For additional details and ticket information, visit ucolick.org/summer.

Tickets for both “Music of the Spheres” and “Evenings with the Stars” will go on sale to the general public at noon on Friday, April 17 at santacruztickets.com. Members of Friends of Lick Observatory (FoLO) can purchase tickets starting at noon on Friday, April 3.

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 is at the forefront of astronomical research as an active research facility. It is operated by the UC Observatories (UCO), a multicampus research unit that serves eight UC campuses and is headquartered at UC Santa Cruz.

Additional information is available at ucolick.org/summer.

Please note: Weather may restrict telescope viewings, but other activities will still take place. Due to historic construction of the telescope domes, the 36-inch Refractor and the 40-inch Nickel Telescope are not wheelchair accessible at this time. Children must be at least 8 years of age for admission. Due to late hours the program may be difficult for children under 12.