Where are Irvine's Hidden Gems?

Sunday, July 21, 2013
Lauren Jow
OC Register

On a barren hill overlooking the sweeping Irvine landscape, the UC Irvine Observatory sits isolated from city lights, its telescopes and visitors' eyes trained on the stars.
 
"You don't have to go out into the desert if you want to see Saturn or Jupiter or the moon," said Tammy Smecker-Hane, director of the observatory.
 
About nine times a year during the observatory's Visitor Nights, hundreds of families, students and amateur astronomers gather to gaze through the telescopes and learn about the universe from UC Irvine faculty and students.
 
“People aren’t born astrophysicists,” Smecker-Hane said. “If you don’t show kids what there is out there in the universe, they don’t even know they could possibly be an astrophysicist when they grow up.”
 
Schools take their students on tours during the day, and UC Irvine astrophysics students cut their teeth on the equipment they'll be using in graduate school and beyond.
 
The small building is off the beaten path, literally. Visitors have to park at the Anteater Recreation Center and take the shuttle to the foot of a gravel road. From there, it’s a 5-minute trek up a gentle slope.
 
But the observatory won't be around much longer in these dusty environs. Donations are being accepted to build a bigger and better observatory in a park among soon-to-be-built faculty housing in the area.

Where: Park in the East Campus Parking Structure at the corner of California Avenue and Adobe Circle Road South, next to the Anteater Recreation Center. The ASUCI Shuttle Bus will take you to the entrance to the gravel road up to the observatory.
 
When: Visitor nights are 8-11 p.m. Events include "Bending of Light by Gravity" on Saturday and the Perseid meteor shower on Aug. 11.
 
Cost: Visitor nights are free. Rates for classroom tours vary.

Subtitle: 
UC Irvine Observatory