Science: Bulls-Eye

A big astronomical observatory, perched serenely on its remote mountain top and housing almost priceless equipment and records, should be—and is—among the safest places in the world. The steel dome and frame conduct lightning harmlessly to the ground. Steel and concrete cannot be set afire by a careless smoker. The cleared area around an observatory site would stop a forest fire short of damage to the instruments. A telescope anchored through concrete is practically earthquake-proof. Windstorms and hail are trifling annoyances.

Last week a spectacular and unprecedented accident happened to the University of California's famed Lick Observatory, first of the...

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