Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 26.djvu/405

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

instrument will have—besides the Rosse leviathan, which, for many-reasons, may be considered to be out of the running—but one rival. And over this rival—the 48-inch reflector of the Melbourne Observatory—it will have all the advantages of agility and robustness (so to speak) which its system of construction affords; while the exquisite definition for which Alvan Clark is famous will, presumably, not be absent.

Already preparations are being made for its reception at Mount Hamilton. The scabrous summit of "Observatory Peak" has been smoothed down to a suitable equality of surface by the removal of 40,000 tons of hard trap-rock. Preliminary operations for the erection of a dome, seventy-five feet in diameter, to serve as its shelter, are in progress. The water-supply has been provided for by the excavation of great cisterns. Buildings are being rapidly pushed forward from designs prepared by Professors Holden and Newcomb. Most of the subsidiary instruments have for some time been in their places, constituting in themselves an equipment of no mean order. With their aid Professor Holden and Mr. Burnham observed the transit of Mercury of November 7, 1881, and Professor Todd obtained, December 6, 1882, a series of 147 photographs (of which seventy-one were of the highest excellence) recording the progress of Venus across the face of the sun.

We are informed that a great hotel will eventually add the inducement of material well-being to those of astronomical interest and enchanting scenery. No more delightful summer resort can well be imagined. The road to the summit, of which the construction formed the subject of a species of treaty between Mr. Lick and the county of Santa Clara in 1875, traverses from San Jose a distance, as a bird flies, of less than thirteen miles, but doubled by the windings necessary in order to secure moderate gradients. So successfully has this been accomplished, that a horse drawing a light wagon can reach the observatory buildings without breaking his trot.[1] As the ascending track draws its coils closer and closer round the mountain, the view becomes at every turn more varied and more extensive. On one side the tumultuous Coast Ranges, stooping gradually to the shore, magnificently clad with forests of pine and red cedar; the island-studded bay of San Francisco, and farther south, a shining glimpse of the Pacific; on the other, the thronging pinnacles of the Sierras—granite needles, lava-topped bastions—fire-rent, water-worn; right underneath, the rich valleys of Santa Clara and San Joaquin, and 175 miles away to the north (when the sapphire of the sky is purest), the snowy cone of Mount Shasta.

Thus, there seems some reason to apprehend that Mount Hamilton, with its monster telescope, may become one of the show-places of the New World. Absit omen! Such a desecration would effectually mar one of the fairest prospects opened in our time before astronomy. The

  1. E. Holden, "The Lick Observatory," "Nature," vol. xxv, p. 298.