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Important Note to Lick and Keck Observers: Operations During COVID-19 Epidemic
Updated March 16, 2020

As everyone is well aware, the COVID-19 situation is going to place a strain on our observing infrastructure for both local staffing and remote facilities. UCO is dedicated to the safety of our staff and observing community and have developed some measured responses described below. These may need to change as the situation evolves.

All telescopes at Lick and Keck currently remain open for remote observing only. Observers should contact their local remote observing coordinators on their campuses to determine when and if those facilities will remain open as campuses close down more and more. In the event that the remote observing rooms are not accessible to observers, Keck is working on a backup solution in which you will be able to use your own laptop from home to observe. I presume this would work for Lick telescopes as well, though some modifications will have to be made by our Lick staff. The observe-from-your-laptop option is not ready yet for either Keck or Lick, but stay tuned.

Normally before a new person has their first night of remote observing at Lick, they must come to Mt. Hamilton to be trained and "checked out" on the telescope they will be using. In view of likely travel restrictions due to the coronavirus (e.g. plane flight cancellations, etc.) we are temporarily dropping the requirement to show up at Mt. Hamilton in person, and replacing it with a modified form of training that can be done in the remote observing room on campus. Please coordinate with the the Lick support astronomers to plan your training. Note that this is a temporary change and on-site reviews will resume once the emergency has passed.

In the mean time here are best practices that the observing teams should consider:

  • To limit personal contact, teams should have one person at an authorized remote observing room on campus, with others getting more limited access via a Zoom session from home or from their offices.
  • The remote observing team should not assume that the remote observing room will be sanitized daily, and should be prepared themselves to wipe down the keyboard, mouse, chairs, table tops, and door knobs with disinfectant wipes. We hope that each campus will be able to supply these wipes and leave them in the remote observing room for nightly use (perhaps even with a threatening note warning not to remove from room).
  • If you believe you may be sick, do NOT observe (even via Zoom) as rest is important for a strong immune response. If no one from your observing team can observe, please cancel your observing run. No one will be penalized for cancelled observing runs.

We will continue to closely follow the guidance of UCSC and other UC campuses, and of public health authorities including the CDC and the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department, as we consider our further responses to the virus.

If you have any questions please contact us at

Matthew Shetrone
UCO Deputy Director

At the cutting edge of astronomy since 1888.

Lick Observatory is owned and operated by the University of California. It is a major site in the University of California Observatories (UCO), which is responsible for its operations. Since 1888, Lick has provided UC astronomers with access to world-leading optical-infrared observing equipment.

Lick serves astronomers from all eight UC astronomy campuses (Berkeley, Davis, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Diego, Irvine, and Riverside) and two national laboratories (Lawrence Berkeley Lab and Lawrence Livermore Lab). Lick users range in age from undergraduates to the most senior and eminent astronomers in the University of California. At any given time, over 100 observers are pursuing science programs. Lick Observatory also serves as UC's chief testbed for developing new instruments and new technologies for optical astronomy.

The "Observer Information" pages at left are intended for UC astronomers using the telescopes for research.