Beginnings of the Hat Creek Observatory and the 85-foot Telescope

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Session 27 -- Hat Creek
Oral presentation, Tuesday, 8:30-12:30, Dwinelle 155 Room

[27.01] Beginnings of the Hat Creek Observatory and the 85-foot Telescope

Harold Weaver (Radio Astronomy Laboratory/Department of Astronomy, UCBerkeley), (), ()

The first course in radio astronomy at Berkeley was given by Ron Bracewell, a Visiting Professor of Astronomy in 1954/55. Convinced that radio astronomy had to be a part of the curriculum, a faculty committee recommended in 1955 that a solar radio observatory be built and operated by the Department. This original plan was modified, and I took on the task of building and operating a radio astronomy observatory for galactic studies. It was to have as its major telescope an 85-foot dish -- a large instrument for that time. The first two years were spent in writing reports, searching for funds, and investigating existing radio observatories. The Radio Astronomy Laboratory was officially established by the Regents in July, 1958. Costs of the project were shared by ONR and the University. The Hat Creek site was located in early 1959 after many site tests over much of northern California. The roads and the first buildings were completed in January, 1960. The first telescope, a thirty-three foot dish built in-house as a learning experience, was used for its initial observations in July, 1960. The 85-foot telescope was accepted and first used in June, 1962. Construction of the 85-foot was not without mishap. In October, 1960, the airhouse under which the dish was being constructed, was destroyed in a storm. It was necessary to build a new airhouse and completely resurface the dish, causing a long delay in delivery. The 85-foot telescope was born in a storm; it died in a storm in January, 1993, in its thirty-first year.

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