University Of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory To Close This October After 120 Years Of Service


The University of Chicago has recently announced its plan to shut down its work at the Yerkes Observatory located at Williams Bay in Wisconsin.

 Activities at the observatory are going to be gradually wound up over the next six months, to start with. The formal ceasing of operations to be held on-site will take place on Oct. 1, 2018.

The summer season of 2018, therefore, will be the last season of the university's activities at the observatory.

A 120-Year-Old Association

The Yerkes Observatory, founded in 1897, is known as the birthplace of modern astrophysics. Among its most notable alumni include astronomer Edward Hubble, for whom the Hubble Space Telescope was named. He was one of the main founders of the field of extragalactic astronomy, a branch of astronomy that studies celestial bodies that exist outside the Milky Way Galaxy.

"Science at Yerkes in the 20th century led to key discoveries and advances in the field of astronomy, when the observatory helped build the foundation for modern astrophysics," said Edward Kolb, dean of UChicago Division of the Physical Sciences.

Kolb also said that the Yerkes Observatory is a significant part of UChicago's history. He hopes that the building and property will become a valuable resource in some form to the Lake Geneva area visitors as well as to the surrounding community.

Founded by UChicago in 1897, Yerkes became the center of pioneering work by researchers like George Ellery Hale and 1983 Nobel Prize for Physics winner Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, who made discoveries that resulted in the theory on later evolutionary stages of massive stars.

The observatory is a facility of UChicago's Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, housing all the department's activities until the mid-1960s.

The Shutdown

Over the past few decades, UChicago has been more focused on using the resources and observatories situated all over the planet and in space. In spite of the important history of the association, the instruments at Yerkes are no longer directly resourceful for UChicago's research work. The university has, in fact, made huge investments in Chile's Magellan and Giant telescopes.

David Fithian, UChicago's executive vice president, has said that the operation of Yerkes does not make sense anymore from a cost or programmatic standpoint. He also added that the next step would be to figure out the ultimate way to dispose of the property and building.

At present, Fithian said that the management has no definite plans nor have they approached any potential buyers.

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