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If you haven't already done so, I thoroughly recommend you read this book...
Longitude by Dava Sobel
With a big hint of astronomy and some key historical names mentioned, this book is (quote) the dramatic story of an epic scientific quest!
Whilst we all take for granted the easy identification of where we are on the planet these days, this was not always the case! The quest to solve the recording of longitude was so difficult in the past that it gave rise to many governments offering huge sums of money as prizes for the answer to the question.
If you want a book to browes through on ya sunbed or deck chair at night whilst waiting for the clouds to clear, this is a good one.. It reads like a whose who in the world of astronomy - see if you get get hold of this book.
I would pass it on but my partner is going to delve into it when she's completed her latest crime thriller...
Although when she's finished it I may be able to let it go (although technically it is hers)
I am putting this in Astro Lounge as opposed to DIY Observatories because, well, I probably won't be doing it (all) myself.......
I stuck my neck out at my societies AGM and raised the prospect of having our own observatory. Arguments against were expense, lots of folk have their own dome, location and security.
Arguments for included outreach, lots of folk want but can't have their own observatory, skills progression.
I was tasked with a feasabilty/ cost study before we decide whether to approach organisations for either funding assistance or permission to site an obsy on their ground.
To kick start the costing side of the study, I need to asses what is required (outside of a plot of land for the obsy).
My first thoughts are:-
Shell. I am thinking sustainable so a substantial wooden structure including a dome and warm room. 'Flatpack' with DIY assembly would reduce financial impact. Perhaps increase the warm room size into something large enough to become our meeting hall?
Power. Mains would be best but, would a solar panel/ battery combo suffice?
Pier. This would be one of the DIY part of the project and I am thinking a reinforced concrete pier with mount fixings to suit the desired mount though a steel pier is a possibility.
Water/ Drainage. As a society obsy, with outreach use a goal, somewhere to produce refreshing beverages (and to download the later result) may be desired. Mains and sewer or mains water and septic tank?
What have I missed?
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:
Paul Money is doing a talk entitled 'Into The Darkness Shining The Light' at Letchworth & District Astronomy Society, 29th March 7:30pm start.
Full details on the LDAS website. Non-members are welcome.
If you've never been to a talk by Paul Money you're in for a treat - he is a very entertaining, informative and enthusiastic speaker - well worth going to see