Yerkes Observatory

David_S85David_S85 Spotter of Dgrin Spam and OdditiesChicagolandPosts: 11,401Administrators moderator
edited July 31, 2016 in Journeys
On Tuesday of this week, my wife and I visited and toured the 121 year old Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. We had a day trip planned for Lake Geneva, WI., but the night before, while mapping out our itinerary, I happend to find the observatory on Google Maps, which was a surprise to me. I knew of Yerkes, but I hadn't realized it was next to the lake. Plans were changed and we arrived just in time for the last guided tour of the day. The building is normally locked, save for scheduled tours and authorized educational purposes.

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^ Main entrance facing north.

The refracting telescope boasts the largest of its kind 40-inch objective lens, which took several years to construct and grind. Small by today's standards, it held the record for any telescope for eleven years. The observatory has a bit of history, to say the least. Astronomer George Ellery Hale began his career there, in conjunction with the planning and construction of the telescope, from 1892 to 1895. Chicago industrialist Charles T. Yerkes was the principle financial benefactor of the project.

Other noted astronomers who have conducted research there include Edwin Hubble (The Hubble Constant, Hubble Space Telescope), Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (The Chandra Space Telescope), and Carl Sagan, to name a few.

The western dome that includes the Yerkes telescope is huge, even by today's standards. The circular wooden floor is actually an elevator, the second largest in the world, which can raise or lower around the scope's mount, three stories worth in elevation! This is to help with positioning experiments and viewing within the structure. The mount, seen in blue, actually begins another dozen feet below where you see it in this picture.

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The University of Chicago, which owns the property, still uses the site to engineer scientific projects. NASA's SOFIA airborne telescope's wideband camera was designed here in 2012, which does work in the infrared. See, that is the tie-in with my Infrared photos. :D

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^ part of the north-east minor dome housing one of many scopes on this site.

The grounds have been reduced over the years from the original pristine 77 acre site to about 30 acres due to the University selling off tracts of land to developers. In 2005, the university was considering shuttering the observatory and selling everything off to a developer, but the Williams Bay trustees refused to change the land's zoning from educational to residential. Some backtracking and agreements were made over the next several years to continue using the site, not for observations, but for educational development.

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^ The rear of the building is as interesting as the front.

Luckily, this grand building and land surrounding it have, for now, been saved from the wrecking ball. The architecture alone is phenomenal, as you can see from the photos. In person, the structure is even more impressive, with liberal use of marble floors and walls, with elaborate terra-cotta inside and out following the methods used throughout Chicago's turn of the century architecture and especially following the styles used for University of Chicago's buildings.

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^ Closeup of the entrance on the rear side.

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^ A tighter closeup of the detail above the rear entrance.
My Smugmug
"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky

Comments

  • denisegoldbergdenisegoldberg Major grins North Andover, MAPosts: 10,352Super Moderators moderator
    edited July 28, 2016
    Thanks for sharing this, very interesting! I'm glad you discovered it in time to take a tour.

    --- Denise
  • David_S85David_S85 Spotter of Dgrin Spam and Oddities ChicagolandPosts: 11,401Administrators moderator
    edited July 29, 2016
    Thanks for sharing this, very interesting! I'm glad you discovered it in time to take a tour.
    --- Denise

    Thanks, Denise. Just goes to show that there are opportunities right in our back yards that can go (almost) undiscovered.
    Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

    After lunch we moved our game over to Lake Geneva a few miles east. This is a medium sized lake surrounded by hundreds of 5-25 million dollar homes owned by industrialist elites, past and present. The cool thing is there is a 20-mile long lakefront path anyone can freely and legally walk; one that quite literally brings you through their lake-facing and extensive back yards. All lakefront homeowners must agree to this narrow public right-of-way, as the lake is for everyone to enjoy.

    i-KRkchKF-X2.jpg

    One resident, who owns this little summer cottage...

    i-PPFqT52-X2.jpg

    ...throws a party every year in late July for all the residents of the town, with bands, food, drink, and whatever else goes on there. They were setting up as we strolled by. They must have had 25 or more workers preparing for a week ahead.
    My Smugmug
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
  • ChrisJChrisJ Major grins Posts: 2,139Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 30, 2016
    David_S85 wrote: »
    The University of Chicago, which owns the property, still uses the site to engineer scientific projects. NASA's SOFIA airborne telescope's wideband camera was designed here in 2012, which does work in the infrared. See, that is the tie-in with my Infrared photos. :D

    Nice shots of Yerkes! The IR really works for me (and it doesn't always). Great details in the architecture. I didn't know that HAWC was built there. The lab I work for built another camera, FLITECAM, for SOFIA. thumb.gif
    Chris
  • David_S85David_S85 Spotter of Dgrin Spam and Oddities ChicagolandPosts: 11,401Administrators moderator
    edited July 30, 2016
    ChrisJ wrote: »
    Nice shots of Yerkes! The IR really works for me (and it doesn't always). Great details in the architecture. I didn't know that HAWC was built there. The lab I work for built another camera, FLITECAM, for SOFIA. thumb.gif

    Thanks! I only needed to see some of the photos of that old building on Google before we drove up and it took but a second to decide on packing my IR body for the trip.

    The website mentions HAWC's design and completion in 2012. Bets are, after being inside the building, that HAWK wasn't assembled in Williams Bay, but more probably the design was figured out and engineered there. I need to look up FLITECAM now.

    EDIT: I understood most of the spec's article on FLITECAM, except I never heard of "grisms." Something like a prism but with gradients?
    My Smugmug
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
  • ChrisJChrisJ Major grins Posts: 2,139Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 31, 2016
    David_S85 wrote: »
    EDIT: I understood most of the spec's article on FLITECAM, except I never heard of "grisms." Something like a prism but with gradients?

    Here's probably more than you want to know. Look at the slides AND notes in the last presentation from SPIE 2006: https://irlab.astro.ucla.edu/flitecam/presentations/index.html

    I work on the computers and electronics.

    HAWC is now referred to as HAWC+. It received some sort of an upgrade fairly recently, but I'm not familiar with the details.
    Chris
  • grandmaRgrandmaR Major grins Posts: 1,513Registered Users Major grins

    Thanks for sharing. I have been to the Yerkes Primate lab (some years ago) but have never been to the observatory.

    “"..an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered." G.K. Chesterton”
    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/4a9c6/
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter Posts: 13,950Super Moderators moderator

    Very interesting series of images and text, David.

    I enjoyed this a great deal.

    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • David_S85David_S85 Spotter of Dgrin Spam and Oddities ChicagolandPosts: 11,401Administrators moderator

    Thanks grandma and pathfinder!

    My Smugmug
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
  • captnemocaptnemo Depth defying Posts: 156Registered Users Major grins

    Very nice, add the observatory to the ever growing list of things to try and see some day!

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