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The End of an Era

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#1 17.5Dob

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 10:19 PM

Yerkes Observatory closing after 100 yrs

 

"WILLIAMS BAY — After more than a century of scientific exploration on the shores of Geneva Lake, the renowned Yerkes Observatory is ceasing operations.

 

The University of Chicago, which owns Yerkes, announced today that it is closing the facility effective Oct. 1 and shifting all programs and services to Chicago.

 

"Unfortunately operating Yerkes no longer makes sense for the university from a programmatic or cost standpoint," David Fithian, the university's executive vice president, said in announcing the closure.

 

Opened in 1897, the Williams Bay observatory, with its giant telescopes, became the home of groundbreaking astronomical research. Famed scientists such as Edwin Hubble worked there, and Albert Einstein visited the observatory in 1921.Yerkes was home to the University of Chicago's astronomy and astrophysics department until the 1960s. In recent years, the Chicago university has invested in telescopes and observatories elsewhere, and Yerkes has played a diminishing role in the school's scientific research mission.

 

"It is an important part of the history of the university," Edward Kolb, the school's dean of sciences, said in today's announcement. "And we hope it will become, in some form, a valuable resource to the surrounding community and visitors to the Lake Geneva area."

 

The university said it would continue operations at Yerkes through the summer season, and it would honor existing commitments for programs there.

 

After the closure Oct. 1, officials said, they have no specific plans for the property. According to today's announcement, the university intends to engage civic leaders in Williams Bay and the surrounding area in a dialogue on future possibilities for the lakefront site.

"Drawing to a close our operations there," Fithian said, "is the first step in a collaborative process to determine the ultimate disposition of the buildings and property."

source

That is so sad. I grew up on the South Shores of Lake Geneva, and it is an iconic landmark, as well as the pinnacle of refractor building in the day.

I so hope they keep it as a museum at the least, but that's going to cost money. frown.gif
 

 


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#2 EJN

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 10:48 PM

There is already a thread on this in the Classic Telescopes forum.

 

https://www.cloudyni...osed-this-year/

 

 

And having been there many times, this sucks.


Edited by EJN, 08 March 2018 - 11:22 PM.

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#3 ilovecomets

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 08:22 AM

Very sad to hear this.  On our eclipse trip last summer we had hoped to swing by Yerkes on the way back.  Ended up going South rather than west, so we missed it.  Considering a trip out there this summer.  It's a loooooong drive but would be worth it.  Too bad all of the tours are during weekdays rather than weekends.



#4 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 09:13 AM

It would be nice to see it in a Museum or as a museum but i doubt the money is there.  I'm not sure where support could be found .

 

The era of the large aperture research refractor has long been over . First light for the 200 inch on Mt Palomar was in 1949 and that opened up the universe .

 

Jon


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#5 graffias79

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 03:58 PM

I've volunteered for star parties there and I am deeply saddened about this as well.  This building and the land it is built on is incredibly beautiful.  I can't believe such a wonderful place may be destroyed.  If only I were a lottery winner I would turn it into a museum and engage the public with star parties and other events.



#6 graffias79

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 04:35 PM

At one of the star parties one of the guests who looked through my telescope told me that he had taken drone footage of the property earlier that year and uploaded it to YouTube.  He sent me the link.


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#7 epee

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Posted 10 March 2018 - 08:51 AM

Beautiful video.

Hopefully, the state will acquire the land and declare it a state park. Even then, another source of funding would probably be necessary to keep the scopes and domes working. Perhaps Federal Monument status.
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#8 jrbarnett

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Posted 10 March 2018 - 09:57 AM

Yerkes Observatory closing after 100 yrs

 

"WILLIAMS BAY — After more than a century of scientific exploration on the shores of Geneva Lake, the renowned Yerkes Observatory is ceasing operations.

 

The University of Chicago, which owns Yerkes, announced today that it is closing the facility effective Oct. 1 and shifting all programs and services to Chicago.

 

"Unfortunately operating Yerkes no longer makes sense for the university from a programmatic or cost standpoint," David Fithian, the university's executive vice president, said in announcing the closure.

 

Opened in 1897, the Williams Bay observatory, with its giant telescopes, became the home of groundbreaking astronomical research. Famed scientists such as Edwin Hubble worked there, and Albert Einstein visited the observatory in 1921.Yerkes was home to the University of Chicago's astronomy and astrophysics department until the 1960s. In recent years, the Chicago university has invested in telescopes and observatories elsewhere, and Yerkes has played a diminishing role in the school's scientific research mission.

 

"It is an important part of the history of the university," Edward Kolb, the school's dean of sciences, said in today's announcement. "And we hope it will become, in some form, a valuable resource to the surrounding community and visitors to the Lake Geneva area."

 

The university said it would continue operations at Yerkes through the summer season, and it would honor existing commitments for programs there.

 

After the closure Oct. 1, officials said, they have no specific plans for the property. According to today's announcement, the university intends to engage civic leaders in Williams Bay and the surrounding area in a dialogue on future possibilities for the lakefront site.

"Drawing to a close our operations there," Fithian said, "is the first step in a collaborative process to determine the ultimate disposition of the buildings and property."

source

That is so sad. I grew up on the South Shores of Lake Geneva, and it is an iconic landmark, as well as the pinnacle of refractor building in the day.

I so hope they keep it as a museum at the least, but that's going to cost money. frown.gif
 

They tried to sell the entire property including the telescopes about 10 years ago.  Beautiful property, historic instruments, lovely buildings, low price (about $500k as I recall), but no takers.  The killer is the upkeep costs on all of those ancient, aging buildings that suffer a full four seasons.

 

It's a shame.  But all great stone temples to man's vanity are, eventually, abandoned.

 

Regards,

 

Jim


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#9 bumm

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Posted 10 March 2018 - 03:52 PM

At one of the star parties one of the guests who looked through my telescope told me that he had taken drone footage of the property earlier that year and uploaded it to YouTube.  He sent me the link.

That's wonderful...  I've never seen it, but after reading Mary Proctor's "Half Hours With The Summer Stars," I think I might have visited in 1910.

                                                                                                                                      Marty


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#10 Don W

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Posted 11 March 2018 - 04:15 PM

Living in Wisconsin our club has made a number of pilgrimages to Yerkes. Sad to see this. But the instrument is archaic and expensive to keep up. The dome is immense, larger than most reflecting telescopes that house much larger instruments.



#11 Arcticpaddler

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Posted 11 March 2018 - 06:26 PM

I believe the State of Wisconsin or federal government should take over the site. Protect and restore it.  Maybe not all of the buildings need be retained, but certainly the observatory and great refractor should be.


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#12 bumm

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 08:48 AM

I believe the State of Wisconsin or federal government should take over the site. Protect and restore it.  Maybe not all of the buildings need be retained, but certainly the observatory and great refractor should be.

Agreed.  Any number of times I've seen much more worthless old buildings demolished, followed some years later with regrets.  Yerkes is a world-class historical treasure.  Yes, it would be expensive...

                       Marty



#13 Dick Jacobson

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 12:52 PM

I've seen an estimate that there are 300,000 amateur astronomers; not sure if this is worldwide or just in the U.S. Surely if there are this many who care passionately about astronomy, we must be able to raise the funds to preserve the largest refractor that is ever likely to be built.



#14 LkUpRusty!

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Posted 14 March 2018 - 09:26 AM

Perhaps a Titan of the Private Sector, or a group of them, could get together to keep this site going,

and available to the public.

 

What about Elon Musk? Google? Jeff Bezos? 



#15 Dick Jacobson

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Posted 15 March 2018 - 07:39 AM

I wonder if the Astronomical League could orchestrate a fundraising campaign to preserve Yerkes.



#16 Starkid2u

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Posted 15 March 2018 - 07:43 PM

Moving it to where the people are who would be interested in having it around is probably the best option. Privately funded, if necessary.

 

STARKID2U



#17 epee

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Posted 16 March 2018 - 08:04 AM

I figure the telescope will somehow be saved, even if just in storage. I can't imagine it being scrapped (although, if it were, I can imagine some of our ATMs bidding on the objectivewink.gif ). I'm afraid the buildings, long term at least, are likely doomed.

 

Though here's a thought that might save both; Astronomy Condos.


Edited by epee, 16 March 2018 - 08:07 AM.


#18 caveman_astronomer

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Posted 16 March 2018 - 08:46 AM

I figure the telescope will somehow be saved, even if just in storage. I can't imagine it being scrapped (although, if it were, I can imagine some of our ATMs bidding on the objectivewink.gif ). I'm afraid the buildings, long term at least, are likely doomed.

 

Though here's a thought that might save both; Astronomy Condos.

The building is far enough away from densely populated areas that it shouldn't be demolished, so long as it can be maintained well enough not to collapse.

 

There were some large largish refractor lenses that failed to get any bids at an estate auction. 

 

There is this....

 

https://www.ropermou...?titleid=daniel

 

The 40-inch is about 8x more bulky and its remoteness actually works against it.




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