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Two astrophotographers use the historic 129 year old Great Lick Refractor to capture the cosmos using modern day techniques
Two astrophotographers use the historic 129 year old Great Lick Refractor to capture the cosmos using modern day techniques
Two astrophotographers use the historic 129 year old Great Lick Refractor to capture the cosmos using modern day techniques
241 backers pledged $12,753 to help bring this project to life.

About

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The Great Lick Refractor

$12,753

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For those of you who may want to join us at the telescope at a later date - if even you're already joining us in May - we've set up a mailing list for you to subscribe to, and if enough people are interested, then we'll see about setting up another Great Refractor viewing/imaging party in the future. You can access the website and sign up for the mailing list here: DarkSkyPhotography.com/Great-Lick-Refractor

Add-on Rewards

If you pledge $20 or more, then you may also add-on one or both of these rewards if you choose:

Our last published book: The Range of Light: Night & Day on the John Muir Trail - Add on $20 for U.S. backers, or $42 for international backers. (Delivery in April.)

A pack of 5 postcards featuring images from the Great Lick Refractor, along with captions and area to write your message on the back.  Add on $10 for U.S. backers, or $12 for international backers. (Delivery in November.)

Stretch Goal $12,500 -- Reached!

We love the interactive aspect of this project, and want to extend it as much as possible, so our next stretch goal will be $12,500, and we’ll use the money to obtain extra equipment and put in extra time and effort into creating an area on our website with a detailed account of this project, including short highlight videos from the telescope, time lapses, an in-depth write-up of both technical and narrative findings, and we’ll distribute the raw image files for at least one object we capture (light, dark, and flat frames) along with a tutorial so you can dabble with astrophotography editing yourself!

Stretch Goal: $9000 -- Reached! 

If we reach $9000, we'll add another night at the telescope -- which means more images captured!

The Great Lick Refractor:

The 36" Great Refractor was constructed from 1880 to 1888 at the Lick Observatory atop Mt. Hamilton, near San Jose, California.  The giant telescope was the brainchild of James Lick -- a wealthy and eccentric businessman who wanted to build a grandiose monument to leave in his name.  Lick decided to build the largest refracting telescope on the planet at the time.

Constructing the 57 ft. long, 25,000 lbs., 4 ft. total diameter refractor on top of the 4,265 ft. mountain proved to be an extremely challenging task, as the components had to be hauled up the mountain by horse and carriage on a winding, daunting dirt road.  The project produced the first permanently occupied observatory in the world to be built on a mountaintop, which provided the advantages of being above much of the atmosphere, weather, and these days -- city lights.  The Great Refractor enabled groundbreaking research of its time, including the discovery of Jupiter's 5th moon in 1892 by E.E. Barnard -- nearly two centuries after Galileo discovered the first four, which were thought to be all of them (We now know there are more than 50!).  Unfortunately, James Lick died before the construction of the telescope was complete, so he was never able to witness its greatness in person, though, his body is entombed underneath it!

James Lick's tomb underneath the Great Lick Refractor
James Lick's tomb underneath the Great Lick Refractor

The Project:

We'll be imaging deep sky objects - nebulae, star clusters, galaxies, etc. - and hopefully one or two solar system objects (the moon? Jupiter? we'll see...) through the 36" Great Lick Refractor using our custom made adapter to attach a modern day Canon 6D DSLR camera.  We plan to capture images through this giant telescope at least three times throughout this year, with each visit targeting different objects as the nighttime sky evolves with the seasons.

Given the costs of telescope time, we expect the project to produce at least 5 to 10 deep sky images, and possibly more.  You will be able to choose which image you want as your print.  We'll also be capturing some shots of the telescope and the Lick Observatory itself, which will be available as print choices as well.

The Lick Observatory
The Lick Observatory

 

Testing out our gear on the Great Refractor
Testing out our gear on the Great Refractor

Your Contribution:

While we are lucky enough to have contacts at Lick that allowed us to arrange this awesome feat, operating the telescope is still costly.  Your contribution will go towards funding telescope time.

Rewards:

We are offering a selection of high quality paper and metal (lightweight aluminum) infused prints as rewards, as well as an opportunity to join us at the telescope!  If you choose to join us at the 'scope, please be advised that due to weather, we cannot determine an exact date until it's nearly upon us, but plan for an evening TBD sometime on or around May 2nd, 2017.  We expect to ship all prints by November of this year.

For more information regarding metal prints, you can view a short video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSHP66irRXM

Our Previous Work:

Here are some examples of our previous work, including an up close shot of the extremely distant Blue Snowball Nebula (NGC 7662), which we captured with the Great Lick Refractor while confirming that our imaging methods would work.

Cropped up close -- the Blue Snowball Nebula imaged through the Great Lick Refractor using our Canon 6D DSLR camera
Cropped up close -- the Blue Snowball Nebula imaged through the Great Lick Refractor using our Canon 6D DSLR camera

 

The Orion Nebula - Imaged through our much smaller 8" Newtonian telescope
The Orion Nebula - Imaged through our much smaller 8" Newtonian telescope

 

The Pleiades Star Cluster -- Imaged through our 8" Newtonian telescope
The Pleiades Star Cluster -- Imaged through our 8" Newtonian telescope

 

Messier 33 (spiral galaxy) -- Imaged through our 8" Newtonian telescope
Messier 33 (spiral galaxy) -- Imaged through our 8" Newtonian telescope

 

Double Cluster -- Imaged through our 8" Newtonian telescope
Double Cluster -- Imaged through our 8" Newtonian telescope

View more at DarkSkyPhotography.com

Risks and challenges

Since we've already tested our equipment at the telescope to confirm that our imaging methods work, and since we're now so well versed in Kickstarter projects, we feel there is very little risk here.

We've already captured a few images from the telescope, and we also already have a large library of astrophotography and nightscapes which we've previously captured to offer as rewards should the Great Refractor somehow spontaneously combust or be abducted by aliens before we can complete the project.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Postcard

    Receive a 4x6 postcard featuring one of the images captured with the Great Refractor

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    Digital Prints

    Receive digital prints of all the images the project produces

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    EARLY BIRD: 8x12 inch print

    An 8x12 inch print of your choice from any of the images the project produces -- or substitute any image from our website DarkSkyPhotography.com. You'll also receive digital prints of all images captured.

    ***Add $35 to upgrade to a lightweight aluminum infused metal print with floating wall hanger

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    Pledge $30 or more About $30

    8x12 inch print

    An 8x12 inch print of your choice from any of the images the project produces -- or substitute any image from our website DarkSkyPhotography.com. You'll also receive digital prints of all images captured.

    ***Add $35 to upgrade to a lightweight aluminum infused metal print with floating wall hanger

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    Pledge $60 or more About $60

    12x18 inch print

    A 12x18 inch print of your choice from any of the images the project produces -- or substitute any image from our website DarkSkyPhotography.com. You'll also receive digital prints of all images captured.

    ***Add $55 to upgrade to a lightweight aluminum infused metal print with floating wall hanger

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    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    16x24 inch print

    A 16x24 inch print of your choice from any of the images the project produces -- or substitute any image from our website DarkSkyPhotography.com. You'll also receive digital prints of all images captured.

    ***Add $75 to upgrade to a lightweight aluminum infused metal print with floating wall hanger

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    Join us at the telescope! (For 2 people)

    Grab a friend and join us at the Lick Observatory to view objects through the Great Refractor, and possibly help us take a picture through it too. Due to weather, we won't know the exact date until it's nearly upon us, but plan for May 2nd, or close to it. You'll also receive two 8x12 inch prints when they are finished being processed, and all the digital images produced from the project. We'll begin at sundown and the viewing will last approximately 2.5 hours. You must provide your own transportation to the observatory.

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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $3,250 or more About $3,250

    Telescope party! (Up to 35 people)

    Bring a party of up to 35 people to join us at the Lick Observatory for a Great Refractor viewing session along with some deep sky imaging. We'll command the telescope for 3 hours, and everyone in your group will receive an 8x12 inch print when they are finished being processed, as well as digital images of everything we capture. The date of this evening is very flexible -- we will coordinate with your needs as well as the moon phase and weather.

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Funding period

- (34 days)