Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope (KAIT) on Mt. Hamilton. A generous donation brought this project to fruition.
Since the time of Galileo, astronomy research worldwide has benefited greatly by generous philanthropic support. The forefront observatories of any era were generally built with private funding: the Lick Observatory 36-inch Great Refractor (James Lick), Mt. Wilson 60-inch and 100-inch (Andrew Carnegie), Palomar 200-inch (Andrew Carnegie), the Keck 10-meter telescopes (Keck Foundation) and now the Thirty-Meter Telescope (Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation).
More specifically, there is a long history of partnership between Bay Area philanthropists and Lick Observatory. In addition to the original gift from James Lick that built the Observatory, many prominent families made contributions that allowed new instrumentation to built, new telescopes to be installed and commissioned and the leading researchers of the day to visit Lick Observatory or be hired there. The Crocker, Levi Strauss, Morrison,, and Davidson gifts from the late 1800s and first half of the 20th century were crucial for maintaining the Lick Observatory at the forefront.
This tradition has continued to the present. The two most used instruments for the last decade at the Shane 3-meter telescope are the Kast Spectrometer and Hamilton Spectrometer. The former was made possible by a generous donation by Bill and Marina Kast and the latter by a gift from the Clara Belle Hamilton trust. Ongoing support by these philanthropists has allowed upgrades to keep the instruments at the cutting edge. Discoveries by astronomers using these instruments include many of the first planets discovered orbiting stars other than the Sun, the characterization of supernovae explosions that is the basis of the discovery of the acceleration of the expansion of the Universe and Dark Energy, and our understanding of the physical properties of quasars and active nuclei galaxies.
The two newest telescopes at Lick Observatory are examples of an important new way of doing astronomy in the future and both would not be possible without generous gifts from local philanthropists. The Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope (KAIT) is a robotic telescope that on every clear night of the year makes automated observations searching for supernova explosions in the nearby Universe. It has been an outstanding success, discovering the majority of the known supernovae worldwide. This telescope was made possible by a gift from Jim and Sylvia Katzman. A new facility that will certainly have at least a large an impact is the Automated Planet Finder with the integrated Levy Spectrometer. This facility will start science operations in 2011 and will be dedicated to discovering and characterizing planets orbiting other stars. Ken and Gloria Levy stepped in at a key moment to fund completion of the facility.
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