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Our club meets at (and maintains) a small observatory at what was once one of the county's high schools, and is now a middle school. The basis for the observatory was a science teacher's dream back in the 1960's, that became a reality through constant pressure on the local school board, lots of public support, and the diligent efforts of many volunteers who helped raise funds and actually build the observatory. The centerpiece of this facility is a hand-built (including grinding the primary mirror) 10" f/9.2 Newtonian reflector on a custom made, powered, split horseshoe ring mount. It is mounted under a rotating dome on top of the observatory building. This telescope is referred to as the O.N. Rich telescope, that being the name of the gentleman who built and donated it to the observatory. His stipulations were that it be used to further astronomic education and be fully maintained in working order for the duration of the observatory's existence. The observatory was built over two years by volunteer contractors and a high school masonry class. The dome was constructed under direction and assistance of the telescope builder; the completed observatory was dedicated in October 1976. I've lived within 5 miles of this observatory for 23 years, (both my daughters graduated from the high school where the observatory is located), and visited several times during the club's twice-monthly public viewings, but had never seen the Rich Telescope until last night. I'm a fairly new member of the club; last night was an especially nice viewing night, and we had a very large crowd (around 70 people) for the public viewing. It was decided to open the dome and utilize this scope for the occasion, and we used a 9mm Nagler EP to achieve 260x for viewing Saturn. The image is incredible; not only was Titan visible, but Rhea and Dione also, The Cassini division was clear, and if you had well-adjusted dark eyes, the Encke gap was barely visible; this was with a full Moon rising from behind the dome relative to our viewing direction . This telescope does not get a lot of use, but it stays in immaculate condition for a telescope built in the 1950's. I was shown how to open the dome doors, which use a worm drive from an electric garage door opener at the bottom and top of the arched doors, which open from the base to the zenith of the dome. The telescope's drive is rather unique; there is a movable plate that clamps to the outer azimuth ring; this plate has a toothed rack along its bottom, that engages a worm gear driven by an electric motor through a reduction system. This provides very accurate tracking on the azimuth axis; the geared plate must, however, be manually repositioned on the arch every hour, as the rack reaches the end of its travel length, in order to continue tracking for long periods. It takes about fifteen seconds to reposition this plate. Altitude axis is manual; the telescope is very finely balanced on this axis, and there is a friction control to help keep the set altitude. This alt-az mount operates like an EQ mount, as it is wedged so the azimuth can track in R.A.. To compensate for the rotation of the image over time, the tube can rotate in the mount along its long axis. A very elegant design for a home-built telescope. Here are a few pictures from inside the (rather cramped) dome. Sorry one is slightly out of focus, the light was dimmer than it looks and my autofocus couldn't quite adapt:
Hi there guys in Sunny Suffolk, I've been into astronomy for a few years here and there. Recently though wanting to get more into the hobby and upgraded my kit. Currently based in Bardwell. I'm on the look out for a Star Gazing club in the Bury area if somebody knows of one. I currently commute to Cambridge and back for work (80 miles each day, can be like 3-4 hours in total due to the dismal traffic system in Cambridge.) At the end of the day I don't really fancy loading my gear up to do another 60 miles to Ipswich and back to visit the astronomy clubs there so I'm in need of help. I see there is clubs in Ely, however I would rather not leave all of my kit sitting in my car in the city centre unattended whilst I'm working for 6 hours if you understand. Do you guys know of some awesome people based closer to Bury that collect together some nights? Would like to meet some of you guys for a session of star gazing and learning. Thanks, Tom
Hi guys, I am thinking about organising a Stargazing Club in my area. I just wanted to put an expression of interest on the forums to see if anyone would be interested in an astronomy group South of Reading, say in the area of Spencers Wood, Arborfield, Eversley and Highfield Park. My intention would be to run a group that would get together on a semi-regular basis between say September and May. It would also provide a local network that can get together on a more ad-hoc basis when weather conditions are more favourable. I would like to make arrangements for a venue in the vicinity near some reasonably dark skies to accommodate us - but before I do this I would like to get an idea of what (if any) interest there would be in such a venture. Please post below or send me a private message if you are interested. Kind regards, Sharpe