Lick Observatory gets $1 million donation from Google

OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) -- It's quieter than scientists would like at the Lick Observatory with funding cutbacks meaning fewer staff, less maintenance and even the shuttering of a couple of telescopes. But things might be changing thanks to a $1 million donation from Google.

Staff astronomer Eleanor Gates told KTVU, the Silicon Valley giant has a shared interest with the observatory.

"If we can get kids interested in science and technology that's their future employees," said Gates. "We've had private donations over the years but not of the scope and magnitude of Google's donations."

Google's donation comes as the Observatory faces an uncertain future. The UC system has funded it for more than 125 years. The recent recession had them rethinking that funding. At one point, UC said it would stop funding and wanted the observatory to be self-sustaining.

Last year it reaffirmed its commitment to funding, but the budget has been a lot smaller.

The astronomers at the Lick Observatory say the future depends on a private donations, and Gates hopes an endowment will eventually put them on stable ground.