Lick Observatory, which is the historic astronomy site got threatened a year back by the University of California budget cuts, can now heave a sigh of relief as the two-year 1 million-dollar gift from the tech giant Google should be more than enough to keep the telescopes operating.
“The gift marks the start of an effort to create a $50 million permanent endowment for the observatory”, said Alex Filippenko, a UC astrophysicst who has been on a yearlong fundraising mission for Lick.
With seven highly instrumented telescopes, Lick is used for testing and research by astronomers from eight UC campuses. But the leaders in the university said that they would end the observatory’s yearly 1.5 million dollar in UC funding within five years, which is a decree that astronomers warned would force the observatory to close.
The move also was the cause of protests from more than a dozen members of California’s congressional designation, with the leader as Rep. Zoe Lofqren and D-San Jose who told her colleagues to tell their appeal to the UC President Janet Napolitano.
The university later withdrew the threat, and Lick has received $1.3 million in UC funds for the past year. It formerly received $2.5 million a year before the recession.
“We hope this gift from Google will start to open corporate doors and jump-start a major campaign for the observatory to become as self-sustaining as possible,” Filippenko said. “The observatory is a major resource — not only for the advanced research we astronomers do there, but for exciting young people about science and technology.”
UC Provost Aimée Dorr, who had issued the funding-cut order last year, praised the “wonderful gift” from Google and said it would “do great things” for the research and education now continuing at the observatory.