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The Nickel Telescope

Built in 1979, today the Nickel telescope is used in the optical search for extraterrestrial intelligence

The Shane 120-inch telescope has been an extremely popular research telescope since it was built in 1959. Lick astronomers had wanted to build a smaller reflector to share the demand for telescope time. They were able to achieve this goal when San Francisco seamstress Anna L. Nickel bequeathed a large part of her estate to the Lick Observatory in the late 1970s. These funds were used to build a 40-inch (1-m) reflecting telescope. While it was estimated that such a telescope would cost $750,000, and just $50,000 had been donated, Lick Observatory ingenuity and adeptness at recycling kept the total spent on parts at only $28,000. Dubbed by some the “spare parts telescope,” the Nickel was built around a 40-inch mirror originally acquired for the Crossley telescope, and utilized many other on-hand parts. By building “in-house” at the UCO Technical Facilities at UCSC, an estimated $400,000 of labor was provided as a part of regular shop operations. The Nickel telescope was completed in 1979.