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The Crisis at Lick Observatory
Free Astronomy Lecture Featuring Discussion of Exploding Stars, New Plane & Black Holes
Smithwick Theatre (Room 1001)
February 26, 2014
7 p.m.
Archive Story
Lick Observatory
Lick Observatory

As part of the 14th annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, astronomer Alex Filippenko, Ph.D., of UC Berkeley, will discuss Exploding Stars, New Planets, Black Holes and the Crisis at Lick Observatory, an illustrated, non-technical lecture Wednesday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking.

The first remote mountaintop observatory in the world,Lick Observatory has had a remarkable record of discovery spanning 126 years. It continues to be a vibrant research facility, especially for projects that require large numbers of nights on modest-size telescopes. Come hear about the exciting research areas in which Lick remains a world leader, such as the discovery and monitoring of exploding stars (which help us understand our own chemical origins as well as the ultimate fate of the universe); the search for planets orbiting other stars, especially Earth-like planets; and the study of giant black holes in the centers of nearby galaxies.

Located on the summit of 4,200' Mt. Hamilton in the Diablo Range east of San Jose, Calif., Lick is used to develop and test new instruments, such as the “adaptive optics” systems that can give telescopes on Earth clarity that matches or exceeds that of the Hubble Space Telescope. Lick is also a primary base for the University of California’s astronomy education and outreach efforts. Yet, despite all this, the UC Office of the President has decided that the university’s funding for Lick will be terminated by 2016−2018, given the financial pressures on UC. This crisis has inspired a group of Silicon Valley and Bay Area leaders to begin a serious search for alternative sources of funding to sustain this vital Bay Area institution. Come find out, from the president of the Lick Observatory Council, what Lick is all about and why we need to keep it going!

Dr. Alex Filippenko, the Richard & Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences at UC Berkeley, is a world-renowned expert on some of the most dramatic fields in astronomy, including exploding stars, black holes and cosmology. An elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, he was the only person to have been a member of both teams that revealed that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. This discovery, based in part on work done by him at Lick Observatory and elsewhere, was honored with the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics to the teams’ leaders. Voted the “Best Professor” on the Berkeley campus a record nine times, he was also named the 2006 Carnegie/CASE National Professor of the Year at the university level. He has produced five astronomy video courses with The Great Courses, coauthored an award-winning astronomy textbook, and appears in about 100 TV documentaries. In 2004, he was awarded the Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization.

The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Past Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures are now available free on YouTube, at the series' own channel at The site gives instant access to over two dozen past lectures, including Steve Beckwith on the Hubble Telescope’s deepest views, Mike Brown on his discovery of worlds beyond Pluto, Natalie Batalha on the Kepler mission planet discoveries, Chris McKay on what it’s like on Saturn’s moon Titan, Sandra Faber on the origin of galaxies, Alex Filippenko and Roger Blandford on black holes, and Seth Shostak on new approaches to finding extra-terrestrial civilizations.

Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. Visitors must purchase a parking permit for $3 from dispensers in any student parking lot. Dispensers accept one-dollar bills and quarters; bring exact change. Foothill College is located off I-280 on El Monte Road in Los Altos Hills. For directions and parking information, access For a campus map, access For more information, access or call (650) 949-7888.

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Special Notice: Admission is free; purchase required parking permit for $3 from dispensers in any student lot.

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