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Glacier Point

In line with the primary effort of ANational Park Service to preserve some part of our 'natural environment
against the inroads of industry and private use, so that for ourselves and for posterity certain "windows"
may remain open through which we may glimpse and enjoy the natural setting in which the human race
was born, we, the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers, feel pressed to suggest that in the master plan
for Yosemite National Park full consideration be given to the urgent necessity of establishing a public
astronomical observatory in the Glacier Point area. Just as we feel the need to preserve for the people
"windows" on the natural environment at the surface of our planet, just so we feel the need
to preserve for the people "windows" on the universe beyond.  It seems every bit as much a part of the
National Park effort to preserve our right to see the sky as it is to preserve our right to see a cliff, a lake,
a stream, a mountain or a tree. All these surface details of our planet may be seen by day, yet by day
most of the universe remains hidden from our gaze by our blinding proximity to the sun. Hence if the
rest of the universe is to be seen at all it must be seen by night. There is no other way, and it is far,
far better seen through telescopes. It is therefore that we press, before it is too late, for the establishment
of a public astronomical observatory at Glacier Point. The need is urgent and apparent, and the
Glacier Point area is extraordinarily suitable for such use.
The great astronomical observatories such as Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton or the Hale Observatories
on Mount Wilson and Mount Palomar cannot possibly handle the public need for astronomical observation,
and it seems inevitable that the handling of this need will fall to the National Parks and Monuments.
The great danger is that by the time the need is more keenly and widely felt the availability of the
Glacier Point area for this use may be lost through some disaster such as the building of another
hotel which would render the area totally useless for public astronomical observation.
Glacier Point is seven thousand two hundred feet above sea level and a long way from any large town, or
even an area where a large town might arise. It is also very favorably situated on the brink of a cliff so
that the cold night air, flowing downward from the surrounding mountains, cannot possibly accumulate
above it. And yet it is easily accessible by car and equipped with an adequate parking area and an elegant
water supply. Noticing all these outstanding advantages the Sidewalk Astronomers, over the course of several
years, have repeatedly brought their twenty-four inch telescope to Glacier Point and tested every aspect of
the seeing conditions. Except fot inaccessibility in winter it is superior to any California observatory site that we have visited.
It is our fervent hope that an outdoor amphitheater might be built in the hollow of the hill where the toilet
facilities now stand and that a very small, roll-away observatory building (without a dome) should be built to house a
twenty-four or thirty inch telescope for public use on the lower ledge where the old hotel once stood. Then the visitors
could hear a sunset talk by a Park Naturalist at Overhanging Rock as they now do and then, as darkness fell, they could
see an astronomical slide show in the amphitheater, and finally, when the darkness had deepened, they could see a
variety of celestial objects through several smaller, portable telescopes along the path leading to the larger telescope down
on the ledge. Bridleveil campground, only eight miles down the road, would be available to those who didn't care to
return to the valley floor before daylight. 
The San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers have already expressed their willingness to make telescopes available for
this use if only adequate housing for the equipment could be provided. And the management of the telescopes could very
easily be handled by any Park Naturalists familiar with the night sky.
If only a small, inexpensive shelter could be provided to house telescopes on the lower ledge where the old hotel
once stood, the benefit to the public would be enormous yet the environmental impact of such a structure would be minimal
and it would in no way interfere with the present use of the Glacier Point area as a trail head and a daytime, terrestrial
view area. 
J.L.D. for
the Sidewalk Astronomers
March, 1975