In 2004, the University of Chicago considered selling the observatory to an out-of-state developer. I feared that Yerkes would become far less than what it was or could be and might eventually close," says astronomer Kyle Cudworth of the University of Chicago, who was director of the Yerkes Observatory at the time.
The university ultimately decided not to sell the observatory, which is located about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northwest of Chicago in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. But from that point on, the university and community struggled over the fate of the facility, which carries with it significant history but diminishing financial prospects.
The historys incredible, and a bit overwhelming, says Dianna Colman, chair of the Yerkes Future Foundation. Drop a name, theyve all been there. The history of the Yerkes Observatory includes entrepreneurial astronomer George Ellery Hale, Nobel laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Albert Einstein, and Mother of Hubble Nancy Roman, not to mention generations of astronomers, NASA scientists and astronauts.
The Yerkes Observatory was Hales brainchild. In the late 1800s, the University of Southern California sought to build the worlds largest telescope, but ran out of funds. So Hale set out to bring the project to his home institution, the University of Chicago. He was able to convince the slick Chicago businessman Charles T. Yerkes to provide funding.
Henry Ives Cobb designed the buildings at Yerkes Observatory, adorning them with mythological themes, signs of the Zodiac, phases of the Moon and caricatures of the universitys first president, William Rainey Harper.
The observatory has amassed a collection of more than 100,000 observations, showing changes in astronomical objects over decades. Professor Rick Rees of Westfield State University calls himself one of the youngest astronomers, at 54, to work with photographic plates. He says Yerkes' collection includes treasures such as Yerkes' earliest plate capturing anything other than the Sun specifically, the globular cluster M5.
Rees recalls seeing famous names on the cards of Yerkes library books they had checked out. Holding [Edward Emerson] Barnards plates on which he discovered the star named for him is thrilling, he recalls.
After more than a decade of uncertainty, the University of Chicago closed the observatory in October 2018, saying in a press release that the facility and its instrumentation no longer contribute directly to the research mission of the University of Chicago. The announcement went on highlight the university's need to redirect resources to major investments in the Magellan and Giant Magellan telescopes in Chile.
The university's efforts to find a new owner for the observatory were stymied, however, by the resurfacing of Yerkes gift letter, which stipulated that the University of Chicago continue to use the observatory for astronomical investigation. Otherwise, the building would revert to Yerkes' heirs.
In order to save the observatory, a group of approximately 45 concerned individuals formed the Yerkes Future Foundation. Since then, the organization has been working with the university and Yerkes heirs to come to an agreement. [The University of Chicago] needed clarity. We needed a plan," Colman says. "They had to be confident we would preserve the observatory. In addition to working out many other details, the foundation has employed the help of experts to determine the proper steps that need to be taken to preserve the observatorys scientific instruments.
But Cudworth is hopeful about the observatorys fate. Now we have a local group whose priorities fit well with what Yerkes has been doing, he says. For example, he cites Yerkes' educational and public outreach projects, such as opportunities for local high school students to use Yerkes data to carry out longitudinal studies tracking the changing brightness of stars.
With the announcement this week of the Yerkes Future Foundation agreement," he adds, "I am hoping it wont be too many more months before students can be back in Yerkes doing such research.
Editor's note: This story has been corrected from an earlier version. Yerkes' collection includes the earliest photographic plate capturing anything other than the Sun that the observatory itself collected.
Originally posted here:
- Astronomers want to get in on NASA's push to the moon - Space.com - July 13th, 2020
- Astronomers think they can find the Sun's lost siblings - Astronomy Magazine - July 13th, 2020
- Astronomers found a giant intergalactic wall of galaxies hiding in plain sight - MIT Technology Review - July 13th, 2020
- Powerful eruptions on the Sun might trigger earthquakes - Astronomy Magazine - July 13th, 2020
- Astronomers discover South Pole Wall, a gigantic structure stretching 1.4 billion light-years across - Livescience.com - July 13th, 2020
- Your best chance to see Jupiter this year - Astronomy Now Online - July 13th, 2020
- Beyond the twilight zone: Living on a two-faced world - Astronomy Magazine - July 13th, 2020
- Popular UC San Diego astronomer Andy Friedman dies at 41 - The San Diego Union-Tribune - July 13th, 2020
- Astronomers Find Stellar Stream of Extragalactic Origin in the Vicinity of the Sun | Astronomy - Sci-News.com - July 13th, 2020
- Look Up! Astronomer Says July Skies Are Brimming With Planets, Constellations - Here And Now - July 13th, 2020
- Astronomers discover an exposed exoplanet core 730 light-years from Earth - The Next Web - July 13th, 2020
- NYU Astronomer Searches for Life, and Meaning, on Other Planets - NYU News - July 13th, 2020
- South Atlantic Anomaly: Have astronomers finally explained space's Bermuda Triangle? - Space.com - July 13th, 2020
- 'Clyde's Spot,' a new storm on Jupiter, discovered by amateur astronomer (photos) - Space.com - July 13th, 2020
- Astronomers Finally Have Important Details on What The Centre of Our Galaxy Looks Like - ScienceAlert - July 13th, 2020
- A backyard astronomy book and other literary events for the week of July 12 - TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press - July 13th, 2020
- The fastest spinning star in the galaxy - SYFY WIRE - July 13th, 2020
- The Way of the Shogun | Travel - Smithsonian Magazine - July 12th, 2020
- 4 mysterious objects spotted in deep space are unlike anything ever seen - Livescience.com - July 11th, 2020
- Astronomers Spot Strange Space Object, Have No Idea What It Is - Popular Mechanics - July 11th, 2020
- 3 takes on dealing with uncertainty Harvard Gazette - Harvard Gazette - July 11th, 2020
- Astronomy - Wikipedia - July 5th, 2020
- astronomy | Definition & Facts | Britannica - July 5th, 2020
- What is Astronomy? Definition & History | Space - July 5th, 2020
- Astronomy for Beginners | Night Sky Facts, FAQs ... - July 5th, 2020
- Astronomers Have Located The Centre of The Solar System to Within 100 Metres - ScienceAlert - July 5th, 2020
- First planetary core discovered, astronomers announce - USA TODAY - July 5th, 2020
- How Elon Musk's Starlink satellites may have stifled the best chance to find Planet 9 - CNN - July 5th, 2020
- Astronomers Might Have Seen a Star Just Disappear. Turning Straight to a Black Hole Without a Supernova - Universe Today - July 5th, 2020
- Up close and personal: 10 years in the life of the Sun - Astronomy Magazine - July 5th, 2020
- Exoplanet the Size of Neptune Discovered by Astronomers About 32 Light-Years From Earth - SciTechDaily - July 5th, 2020
- Social Divisions Drive Astronomical COVID-19 Rate In Chile : Goats and Soda - NPR - July 5th, 2020
- How stargazing could save your life | 1843 - The Economist 1843 - July 5th, 2020
- The Sky This Week from June 19 to 26 - Astronomy Magazine - June 22nd, 2020
- Five Jansky Fellows Look to the Future of Radio Astronomy - Newswise - June 22nd, 2020
- Enjoy the sky's great globular - Astronomy Magazine - June 22nd, 2020
- An unprecedented look at the atmosphere of the supergiant star Antares - Astronomy Magazine - June 22nd, 2020
- Explore the world of galaxies - Astronomy Magazine - June 22nd, 2020
- Infinity and Beyon: Episode 1 The Big Bang - Astronomy Magazine - June 22nd, 2020
- Astronomers Estimate There Are 6 Billion Earth-Like Planets in the Milky Way - Universe Today - June 22nd, 2020
- CHIME study involving U of T astronomers finds fast radio bursts repeat 'on the time scale of weeks' - News@UofT - June 22nd, 2020
- 1981: Barbara Williams becomes the first Black woman to get a PhD - Astrobites - June 22nd, 2020
- Astronomers Detect a Fascinating Green Glow in The Atmosphere of Mars - ScienceAlert - June 22nd, 2020
- UI professors mapping the way for the future of plasma physics and fusion energy research - UI The Daily Iowan - June 22nd, 2020
- End of the world: Astronomers break silence over June 21 doomsday - Express.co.uk - June 22nd, 2020
- For Astronomy Buff Sushant Singh Rajput, A Tribute From France's International Space University - NDTV - June 22nd, 2020
- UArizona Offers Free and Discounted Programs to Meet Needs of New Learners - UANews - June 22nd, 2020
- Sun-Like Star Kepler-160 Has Super-Earth in Habitable Zone | Astronomy - Sci-News.com - June 9th, 2020
- Half the matter in the cosmos was missing, but astronomers found it h - Astronomy Magazine - June 9th, 2020
- What has the Juno spacecraft taught us about Jupiter? - Astronomy Magazine - June 9th, 2020
- The Sky This Week from June 5 to 12 - Astronomy Magazine - June 9th, 2020
- The History and Future of Telescopes on the Moon - Astronomy Magazine - June 9th, 2020
- The 1st stars in the universe formed earlier than thought - Space.com - June 9th, 2020
- Astronomers have found a planet like Earth orbiting a star like the sun - MIT Technology Review - June 9th, 2020
- How 'Mars Undergound' sparked a return to the Red Planet - Astronomy Magazine - June 9th, 2020
- Astronomers capture rare cosmic 'Jekyll and Hyde' behaviour in double star system 19,000 light-years away - Folio - University of Alberta - June 9th, 2020
- First Optical Measurements of Milky Ways Fermi Bubbles Probe Their Origin - ERAU News - June 9th, 2020
- A rendezvous between Jupiter, Saturn and the moon lit up the night skies this week - Chron - June 9th, 2020
- Astronomers Pinpoint The Origin of Huge Gas Bubbles Flowing Out of The Milky Way - ScienceAlert - June 9th, 2020
- It's 2020, And Astronomers Have Just Found a New Class of Massive Space Explosions - ScienceAlert - June 9th, 2020
- The Brilliant Astronomer Who Devised New Tactics to Fight Anti-Gay Bias - The New York Times - June 9th, 2020
- Gamma Rays Detected Coming From the Crab Nebula - Universe Today - June 9th, 2020
- The Sky This Week from April 24 to May 1 - Astronomy Magazine - April 26th, 2020
- A century ago, astronomys Great Debate foreshadowed todays view of the universe - Science News - April 26th, 2020
- Hubble watches a suspected exoplanet disappear before its very eyes - Astronomy Magazine - April 26th, 2020
- Four amazing astronomical discoveries from ancient Greece - The Conversation UK - April 26th, 2020
- Astronomers Just Identified 19 More Asteroids They Think Are Interstellar - ScienceAlert - April 26th, 2020
- Astronomers May Have Captured the First Ever Image of Nearby Exoplanet Proxima C - Scientific American - April 26th, 2020
- Travis Scott will launch 'Astronomical' into the Fortnite frontier this week - Space.com - April 26th, 2020
- Astronomy tips: How to photograph the moon, stars, and sky - Los Angeles Times - April 26th, 2020
- Astronomers Took New Pics of 1998 OR2, The Asteroid About to Whoosh Past Earth - ScienceAlert - April 26th, 2020
- Astronomers Detected a Black Hole Merger With Very Different Mass Objects - Universe Today - April 26th, 2020
- Everything You Need to Know to Take up Stargazing - Thrillist - April 26th, 2020
- Astronomers Discover The Science Behind Star Bursts That Light Up The Sky - Scoop.co.nz - April 26th, 2020
- Blowtorch of the Gods Captured by Black Hole Image Makers - The New York Times - April 9th, 2020
- E. Margaret Burbidge, Astronomer Who Blazed Trails on Earth, Dies at 100 - The New York Times - April 9th, 2020
- Astronomers are hoping to see the very first stars and galaxies in the Universe - Universe Today - April 9th, 2020
- Marvel at the universe with the free Northeast Astronomy Forum Virtual Experience today! - Space.com - April 9th, 2020
- Here's the best way to enjoy the 'Super Pink Moon,' according to a NASA astronomer - Space.com - April 9th, 2020
- Astronomers spot never-before-seen gravitational wave source from binary white dwarf stars - Space.com - April 9th, 2020