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Yerkes Observatory (/ˈjɜːrkz/ YUR-kees) is an astronomical observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin operated by the University of Chicago Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.[1][2] It closed public operations in 2018. The observatory, which called itself "the birthplace of modern astrophysics",[3] was founded in 1897 by astronomer George Ellery Hale and financed by businessman Charles T. Yerkes.[4] It represented a shift in the thinking about observatories, from their being mere housing for telescopes and observers, to the early-20th-century concept of observation equipment integrated with laboratory space for physics and chemistry.

Yerkes Observatory
Yerkesobservatoryfromair.jpg
Named afterCharles Yerkes Edit this on Wikidata
OrganizationUniversity of Chicago Edit this on Wikidata
Observatory code 754 Edit this on Wikidata
LocationWilliams Bay, US
Coordinates42°34′13″N 88°33′22″W / 42.570277777778°N 88.556111111111°W / 42.570277777778; -88.556111111111Coordinates: 42°34′13″N 88°33′22″W / 42.570277777778°N 88.556111111111°W / 42.570277777778; -88.556111111111
Altitude334 m (1,096 ft) Edit this at Wikidata
Websiteastro.uchicago.edu/yerkes/ Edit this at Wikidata
Telescopes
40-inch (102 cm)refractor
40-inch (102 cm)Ritchey–Chrétien reflector
24-inch (61 cm)Cassegrain reflector
10-inch (25 cm)Cassegrain reflector
7-inch (18 cm)Schmidt camera
Yerkes Observatory is located in the United States
Yerkes Observatory
Location of Yerkes Observatory
Commons page Related media on Wikimedia Commons
1897 photo of the 40 in (100 cm) refractor at the Yerkes Observatory.
Telescope controls of the 40 in (100 cm) refractor
A photo of the Messier 51 galaxy taken on June 3, 1902 at the Yerkes Observatory

The observatory houses a 40-inch (102-cm) diameter doublet lens refracting telescope, the largest ever successfully used for astronomy,[5] and a collection of over 170,000 photographic plates.[6]

The Yerkes was the second largest telescope in World when it was lit up, the other larger one was the Paris Observatory's 122 cm reflector. During this time there was many questions about metal, glass, and lens telescopes and their merits. Another large telescope of this period was the Great Melbourne Telescope, which offered strong competition in this time period to the glass and lens telescopes. In the United States, the Lick refactor at just come online in California with a 91 cm lens and a larger lens was within reach. By 1893 the enormous German equatorial mount for the Yerkes refactor was shown the Colombia Exhibition in Chicago, meanwhile Hale coordinated the construction of finely constructed campus in Wisconsin with the University of Chicago.

TelescopesEdit

Yerkes Observatory's 40 in (~102 cm) refracting telescope has a lens produced by the optical firm Alvan Clark & Sons and a mounting by the Warner & Swasey Company. It is the largest refracting telescope used for astronomical research.[7][8] (A larger demonstration refractor, the Great Paris Exhibition Telescope of 1900, was exhibited at the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1900.[8]) The mounting and tube for the 40-inch (100 cm) telescope was exhibited at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago before being installed in the observatory. The grinding of the lens was completed later.[9]

 
Three workers on the skeleton of Yerkes Observatory's great dome viewed from the roof. c.1896

The observatory also houses 40 in (100 cm) and 24 in (61 cm) reflecting telescopes. Several smaller telescopes are used for educational purposes. Both telescopes are available on Skynet Junior Scholars, and the 40-inch reflector helped pioneer the field of adaptive optics.[10]

The glass blanks for what would become Yerkes Great Refractor were made in Paris, France by Mantois and delivered to Clark in Massachusetts when they were completed.[11] Clark then made what would be the largest telescope lens ever crafted and this was mounted to an Equitorial mount made by Warner & Swasey for the observatory.[11] The telescope had an aperture of 40 inches (~102 cm) and focal length of 19.3 meters.[11] The lens, an achromatic doublet which has two sections to reduce chromatic aberration, weight 225 kilograms, and was the last big lens made by Clark before he died in 1897.[11] Glass lens telescope had a good reputation compared to speculum metal and silver on glass mirror telescopes, which had not quite proven themselves despite achieving some large apertures. For example, the Leviathan of Parsonstown was a 1.8 meter telescope with speculum metal mirror, but getting good astronomical results from this technology could be difficult, and another larges telescope of this period was the Great Melbourne Telescope in Australia, also a metal mirror telescope.

ResearchEdit

Research conducted at Yerkes in the last decade[when?] includes work on the interstellar medium, globular cluster formation, infrared astronomy, and near-Earth objects. Until recently the University of Chicago also maintained an engineering center in the observatory, dedicated to building and maintaining scientific instruments. In 2012 the engineers completed work on the High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera (HAWC), part of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).[12] Researchers also use the Yerkes collection of over 170,000 archival photographic plates that date back to the 1890s.[13] The past few years have seen astronomical research largely replaced by educational outreach and astronomical tourism activities.

Noted YerkeEdit

Notable astronomers who conducted research at Yerkes include Albert Michelson,[14] Edwin Hubble (who did his graduate work at Yerkes and for whom the Hubble Space Telescope was named), Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (for whom the Chandra Space Telescope was named), Russian-American astronomer Otto Struve,[2] Dutch-American astronomer Gerard Kuiper (noted for theorizing the Kuiper belt, home to dwarf planet Pluto), and the twentieth-century popularizer of astronomy Carl Sagan.

The 2005 proposed development and preservation initiativeEdit

In March 2005, the University of Chicago announced plans to sell the observatory and its land on the shore of Geneva Lake. Two purchasers had expressed an interest: Mirbeau, an East Coast developer that wanted to build luxury homes, and Aurora University, which has a campus straddling the Williams Bay property. The Geneva Lake Conservancy, a regional conservation and land trust organization, maintained that it was critical to save the historic Yerkes Observatory structures and telescopes for education and research, as well as to conserve the rare undeveloped, wooded lakefront and deep forest sections of the 77-acre (310,000 m2) site. On June 7, 2006, the University announced it would sell the facility to Mirbeau for US$8 million with stipulations to preserve the observatory, the surrounding 30 acres (120,000 m2), and the entire shoreline of the site.[15] Under the Mirbeau plan, a 100-room resort with a large spa operation and attendant parking and support facilities was to be located on the 9-acre (36,000 m2) virgin wooded Yerkes land on the lakeshore—the last such undeveloped, natural site on Geneva Lake's 21-mile (34-kilometer) shoreline. About 70 homes were to be developed on the upper Yerkes property surrounding the historic observatory. These grounds had been designed more than 100 years previously by John Charles Olmsted, the nephew and adopted son of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Ultimately, Williams Bay's refusal to change the zoning from education to residential caused Mirbeau to abandon its development plans.

In view of the public controversy surrounding the development proposals, the university suspended these plans in January 2007.[16] The university's department of astronomy and astrophysics then formed a study group, including representatives from the faculty and observatory and a wide range of other involved parties, to plan for the operation of a regional center for science education at the observatory.[17] The study group began its work in February 2007 and issued its final report November 30, 2007.[18] The report recommended creating a formal business plan to ensure the financial viability of the proposed science education center, establishing ownership of the proposed center before initiating plans for creating it, and forming a partnership between the University of Chicago and local interests to plan for the center. It also suggested that some lakefront and woods parcels could be sold for residential development.[18]

ClosingEdit

In March 2018, the University of Chicago announced that it would no longer operate the observatory after October 1, 2018, and would be seeking a new owner.[19] In May 2018, the Yerkes Future Foundation, a group of local residents, submitted an expression of interest to the University of Chicago with a proposal that would seek to maintain public access to the site and continuation of the educational programs.[20] Transfer of operation to a successor operator was not arranged by the end of August, and the facility was closed to the general public on October 1. Some research activities continued at the Observatory, including access and use of the extensive historical glass plate archives at the site. Yerkes education and outreach staff formed a nonprofit organization – GLAS – to continue their programs at another site after the closing.[21]

As of May 2019, the University continues to negotiate with interested parties on Yerkes' future, primarily with the Yerkes Future Foundation. It was announced in November 2018 that a sticking point has been the need to include also the Yerkes family in the discussions. Mr. Yerkes' agreement in making his donation to the University transfers ownership “To have and to hold unto the said Trustees [of the University of Chicago] and their successors so long as they shall use the same for the purpose of astronomical investigation, but upon their failure to do so, the property hereby conveyed shall revert to the said Charles T. Yerkes or his heirs at law, the same as if this conveyance had never been made.” [22]

Gargoyle sculptures, location, and landscapingEdit

 
A Yerkes Gargoyle sculpture on the Observatory building

The Observatory grounds and buildings are renowned for more than the Great Refractor, but also Gargoyle sculptures.[23] In addition, the landscaping is also famed for its design work by Olmstead.[24]

On the building there are various carvings including Lion gargoyle designs.[25][23] There are also sculptures to represent various people that oversaw or supported construction of the telescope and the facility.[26] The location is noted for a good and pleasant location by Lake Geneva.[27] Although it does not have a high-altitude as preferred by modern observatories, it does have a lot of good weather, and was a considerable distance from the light and pollution of the City of Chicago.[28] It did not have the indignity of being stripped and repedetly moved as some observatories equipment, for example the Perkins Telescope, which was moved from Ohio to Arizona, and although the 69 inch mirror was once the largest telescope mirror made in the United States, it ended up abandoned in Museum closet for years.

Contemporaries on debut of the Great Yerkes RefractorEdit

Legend

Through the 19th century a slow transition between telescopes with glass lenses and various reflecting telescopes was undertaken, with reflecting telescope going from somewhat difficult metal mirrors, to more modern glass coated with metal film designs. The Yerkes was perhaps the Greatest of the Great Refractors, the largest astronomical instrument in the traditional style of the 19th century observatories. Refractor telescopes had an incredible transition to larger and longer designs, and the Yerkes would be largest.

The Yerkes was not only the largest refractor, but was tied for being the largest telescope in the World with Paris Observatory reflector (48 inch 122 cm) when it became operational in 1896.[29]

(100 cm equals 1 meter)


Name/Observatory Aperture
cm (in)
Type Location Extant or Active
Leviathan of Parsonstown 183 cm (72″) reflector – metal Birr Castle; Ireland
1845–1908*
Great Melbourne Telescope[30] 122 cm(48″) reflector – metal Melbourne Observatory, Australia 1878
National Observatory, Paris 122 cm (48″) reflector – glass Paris, France 1875–1943[29]
Yerkes Observatory[31] 102 cm (40″) achromat Williams Bay, Wisconsin, USA 1897-2018
James Lick telescope, Lick Observatory 91 cm (36″) achromat Mount Hamilton, California, USA 1888
Crossley Reflector[32] (Lick Observatory) 91.4 cm(36″) reflector – glass Mount Hamilton, California, USA 1896

*Note the Leviathan of Parsonstown was not used after 1890

 
The Lick telescope in California was 91 cm aperture and debuted in 1888
 
The Grande Lunette of Meudon Observatory (France), was double refractor with both a 83 cm and 62 cm on one shaft and came online in 1891
 
Germany's Himmelskanone) did away with a dome (The telescope tube extends above the observatory in this image) but was quite long, also debuting 1896 like Yerkes

Understanding atmosphere and trends of telescope building of the late 19th century puts the choice of a large refactor in perspective. Although there were some very large reflectors, the speculum mirrors they relied on reflected about 2/3 of the light and high-up keep. A major breakthrough came in the middle of the 19th century with a technique for coating glass with a metal film. (see silver on glass)

A large glass reflector (122 cm diameter glass mirror) was established in Paris by 1876, but problems with figuring of that mirror meant the Paris Observatories 122 cm was not used and did not have a good reputation for viewing.[33] The potential of metal coated glass became more apparent A.A. Common's, made a 36 inch by 1878.[33] (And won a astrophotography award) He went on to make two 60 inch glass mirrors that ended up at Harvard, and the 36 inched became the Crossley reflector in California.

The Warner and Swasey equitorial mount was shown in Chicago at the 1893 Colombia Exhibtion, before it was moved to the Observatory.[34]

Largest telescopes (all types) in 1910)
Name/Observatory Aperture
cm (in)
Type Location Extant or Active
Harvard 60-inch Reflector[35] 1.524 m (60″) reflector – glass Harvard College Observatory, USA 1905–1931
Hale 60-Inch Telescope 1.524 m (60″) reflector – glass Mt. Wilson Observatory; California 1908
National Observatory, Paris 122 cm (48″) reflector – glass Paris, France 1875–1943[29]
Great Melbourne Telescope[36] 122 cm(48″) reflector – metal Melbourne Observatory, Australia 1878
Yerkes Observatory[37] 102 cm (40″) achromat Williams Bay, Wisconsin, USA 1897-2018
James Lick telescope, Lick Observatory 91 cm (36″) achromat Mount Hamilton, California, USA 1888
Crossley Reflector[38] (Lick Observatory) 91.4 cm(36″) reflector – glass Mount Hamilton, California, USA 1896

LegacyEdit

 
The Atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan (picured) was discovered from Yerkes. A moon that would later be visited by Voyager 1 and also the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft

The largest telescope in the World would, ten years later, be the Harvard 60-inch Reflector ( 1.524 m 60″) which came online in 1905 at Harvard College Observatory, USA.[39] Then in 1908 Mount Wilson Observatory matched that size with a 60-inch reflector of their own, and throughout the 20th century increasingly larger reflectors would be established, aided also by refinements to mirror technology— vapor deposited aluminum on low-thermal expansion glass, pioneered for the 200 inch (5 meter) Hale telescope of 1948.[40] In the later years of 20th century space observatories also marked a major advance, and somewhat less than a century after Yerkes, the Hubble Space Telescope, with a 2.4 meter reflector was launched. Small refractor's remain popular for astronaut photography, although issues with chromatic aberration were never really entirely solved for lens. (Isaac Newton had solved this with the reflecting design, although the refactors are not without their merits)

The renaissance-esque grounds[41] and architecture, murals, and statues of the premiere 19th century great observatories, with their extraordinary great telescopes; the Yerke facility was described as "castle-like".[42] For example the Yerkes observatory was built on a 77 acre-grounds, with artistically designed landscaping.[43] [24]The visually remarkable extremely long tubes and elaborate domes and mounts, provided an egg of knowledge that astronomers and the public flocked to for knowledge about the stars. The Yerke's grounds have landscaping designed by Olmstead for example.[24] Great advancements such as astrophotography, the discovery of nebulas, and different types of stars provided a major advance in this period. The importance of finely crafted mounts matched to a large aperture, harnessing the power of the basic equations of the telescopes design to bring the heavens into closer, brighter examination increased humankind's understanding of space and Earth's place in the Galaxy. Among the accomplishments of Yerkes was Kuiper's discovery that Saturn's Moon Titan has an atmosphere.[44]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Yerkes Observatory-Home[dead link]
  2. ^ a b "The Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics | A Bit of History". astro.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2019-06-16.
  3. ^ Observatory website[dead link]
  4. ^ Yerkes Observatory - 1892-1893 History of Yerkes Observatory[dead link]
  5. ^ Elizabeth Howell (August 15, 2014). "Yerkes Observatory: Home of Largest Refracting Telescope". Space.com. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  6. ^ "Observatory website".[dead link]
  7. ^ Starr, Frederick (October 1897). "Science at the University of Chicago". Popular Science Monthly. New York: D. Appleton and Company. 51 (May to October 1897): 802–803. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  8. ^ a b Ley, Willy; Menzel, Donald H.; Richardson, Robert S. (June 1965). "The Observatory on the Moon". For Your Information. Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 132–150.
  9. ^ Yerkes Observatory - 1893 History of Yerkes Observatory[dead link]
  10. ^ "Field tests of the Wavefront Control Experiment". Adaptive Optics in Astronomy. 31 May 1994. doi:10.1117/12.176024.
  11. ^ a b c d The General History of Astronomy. Cambridge University Press. 1900. ISBN 9780521242561.
  12. ^ Yerkes Obervatory-R & D-HAWC[dead link]
  13. ^ The Yerkes Observatory Photographic Plates[dead link]
  14. ^ Gale, Henry G. (July 1931). "Albert A. Michelson". The Astrophysical Journal. 74 (1): 1–9. doi:10.1086/143320.
  15. ^ "Agreement provides for preservation of historic Yerkes Observatory". www-news.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2019-06-16.
  16. ^ "Topic Galleries - chicagotribune.com".
  17. ^ "Yerkes Study Group formed to consider observatory's future". www-news.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2019-06-16.
  18. ^ a b "Final Report of the Yerkes Study Group, November 30, 2007, Yerkes Science Center: Options for Management and Funding" (PDF).
  19. ^ Scott Williams. "Yerkes Observatory closing after 100 years on lakefront".(subscription required) Lake Geneva Regional News, March 7, 2018.
  20. ^ "New Group Submits Proposal to Keep Yerkes Open". www.chicagomaroon.com. Retrieved 2018-09-30.
  21. ^ "GLAS EDUCATION". GLAS EDUCATION. Retrieved 2018-09-30.
  22. ^ "Original bequest letter for Yerkes Observatory holds up its future". The Chicago Maroon. Retrieved 2019-05-28.
  23. ^ a b "The Not-Quite Closing of Yerkes Observatory". Sky & Telescope. 2018-03-16. Retrieved 2019-10-03.
  24. ^ a b c "Agreement provides for preservation of historic Yerkes Observatory". www-news.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  25. ^ "CONTENTdm". hdl.huntington.org. Retrieved 2019-10-03.
  26. ^ Cruikshank, Dale P.; Sheehan, William (2018-02-27). Discovering Pluto: Exploration at the Edge of the Solar System. University of Arizona Press. ISBN 9780816534319.
  27. ^ Cruikshank, Dale P.; Sheehan, William (2018-02-27). Discovering Pluto: Exploration at the Edge of the Solar System. University of Arizona Press. ISBN 9780816534319.
  28. ^ Aut, Kron Richard author (2018-07-06). "The scientific legacy of Yerkes Observatory". doi:10.1063/PT.6.4.20180706a. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  29. ^ a b c "1914Obs....37..245H Page 250". Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  30. ^ "Largest optical telescopes of the world". stjarnhimlen.se. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  31. ^ http://astro.uchicago.edu/vtour/40inch/
  32. ^ "Mt. Hamilton Telescopes: CrossleyTelescope". www.ucolick.org. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  33. ^ a b Gillespie, Richard (2011-11-01). The Great Melbourne Telescope. Museum Victoria. ISBN 9781921833298.
  34. ^ The General History of Astronomy. Cambridge University Press. 1900. ISBN 9780521242561.
  35. ^ "New York Times "NEW HARVARD TELESCOPE.; Sixty-Inch Reflector, Biggest in the World, Being Set Up. "April 6, 1905, Thursday", Page 9". Archived from the original on August 10, 2016. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
  36. ^ "Largest optical telescopes of the world". stjarnhimlen.se. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  37. ^ http://astro.uchicago.edu/vtour/40inch/
  38. ^ "Mt. Hamilton Telescopes: CrossleyTelescope". www.ucolick.org. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  39. ^ "New York Times "NEW HARVARD TELESCOPE.; Sixty-Inch Reflector, Biggest in the World, Being Set Up. "April 6, 1905, Thursday", Page 9". Archived from the original on August 10, 2016. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
  40. ^ "The 200-inch Hale Telescope". www.astro.caltech.edu.
  41. ^ [1]
  42. ^ "The Not-Quite Closing of Yerkes Observatory". Sky & Telescope. 2018-03-16. Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  43. ^ Science, Elizabeth Howell 2014-08-16T02:26:07Z; Astronomy. "Yerkes Observatory: Home of Largest Refracting Telescope". Space.com. Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  44. ^ Science, Elizabeth Howell 2014-08-16T02:26:07Z; Astronomy. "Yerkes Observatory: Home of Largest Refracting Telescope". Space.com. Retrieved 2019-10-02.

External linksEdit