The Chile Station of Lick Observatory, atop Cerro San Cristobal on the outskirts of Valparaiso, featured a 56V^-inch Cassegrain reflector. The foreground building, now with an addition, is still used as a darkroom and office. This old photograph
is courtesy M. Foster Astrophysical Observatory (MFAO).
^HE FLOW of astronomers through X Santiago, Chile, has grown recently as observers make their way lo the major observatories at Cerro Tololo, Cerro La Silla, and Las Campanas, all situated a few hundred miles to the north. Nearly everyone who visits Santiago notices the funicular railway that climbs the steep wooded hill in the northeastern quarter of the city and also the massive white statue of the Virgin that looks out from the peak. Some may notice a small white observatory dome nestled in the woods on the ridge behind the statue, but surely only a few know the story of that observatory, which was originally known as the D. O. Mills Expedition and later as the Chile Station of Lick Observatory.
A major line of research at the University of California's Lick Observatory around the turn of the century was the determination of radial velocities for the brighter stars by means of spectroscopy. The primary aim of this work was to determine the motion of our solar system through space and to develop
statistics on multiple star systems. Solutions to these problems required a knowledge of the radial velocities of stars over the entire sky. so a Southern Hemisphere observing station was highly desirable.
Late in 1900. W. W. Campbell, soon to become the third director of Lick Observatory, obtained the financial support of the California financier Darius Ogden Mills for a two year expedition to the Southern Hemisphere. Mills had been associated with Lick from its inception; in fact. 30 years earlier he had served on James Lick's first Board of Trust. Mills' contribution of some $26,400 was to pay all costs of the expedition: construction in the United States of a dome and telescope with a three-prism spectrograph, their shipment to and erection in Chile, photographic supplies, and salaries and travel expenses for the staff. All equipment was to be dismantled easily, since it was anticipated that at the end of the two-year observing period it would be returned to California.
These sketches by Rob Hess depict Darius Ogden Mills at left and Don Manuel Foster, The latter made it financially possible for the observatory lo be purchased by the Catholic University of Chile,
A reflecting telescope was planned, primarily for economy. Later, Campbell reported that the 36V3-inch Mills telescope and dome cost less than one-eighteenth that of the great Lick 36-inch refractor and dome. This was due at least in part to the compact Cassegrain configuration of the telescope, which had a relatively short tube and required a correspondingly small dome.
The aperture of the new telescope was determined by the size of a surplus primary mirror. This was one of the two acquired by Lick Observatory with the famous Crossley reflector (Sky and Telescope. October and November. 1979). The mirror was known to suffer from severe internal strains, and despite elaborate precautions it shattered during an attempt to cut a central hole in it. Thus, it was necessary to purchase a new mirror, a fortunate circumstance for the success of the expedition in view of the poor quality of glass in the first one. When the new set of Cassegrain mirrors finally arrived on Mount Hamilton for testing, it was discovered that an error had been made in the figure of the primary, and both it and the secondary had to be returned to the optical contractor. To the dismay of the participants, this delayed the expedition by over six months, and in the subsequent rush it was not possible to test the complete telescope and spectrograph assembly before shipment, as had been planned.
Acting astronomer W. H. Wright (many years later to become the fifth director of Lick) was placed in charge of the expedition. Campbell had intended to go along and help the observatory get started, but to his great disappointment he suffered an injury during the testing of the mirrors and was unable to make the trip.
Finally, on February 28. 1903, Wright, his wife, and his assistant H. K. Palmer (who had been pushed into completing his oral examination for the PhD just the day before) sailed from San Francisco with the dismantled observatory in the hold of their ship. They arrived in Valparaiso, Chile, on Saturday, April 18th. In a letter to Campbell, Wright reported the following:
446 Sky and Telescope, May, 1982