Jump to content


Photo

Boller & Chivens

  • Please log in to reply
58 replies to this topic

#1 John Jarosz

John Jarosz

    Astro Gearhead

  • *****
  • Posts: 3209
  • Joined: 25 Apr 2004
  • Loc: Fairfax, Iowa

Posted 20 October 2011 - 07:23 AM

Hardly telescopes that any of us would own, but I thought there would be interest in seeing these pictures.

Boller & Chivens

I always thought they made nice looking scopes and mounts. The ads in old S&T were always cool.

#2 tim53

tim53

    Cosmos

  • *****
  • Posts: 9260
  • Joined: 17 Dec 2004
  • Loc: Highland Park, CA

Posted 20 October 2011 - 09:08 AM

I've used the 16" at Mt Laguna, way back when I was going to be an astronomy major. Very nice telescope. May have been responsible for my realization that it was the telescopes and operating them that I love the most about astronomy.

-Tim.

#3 Lew Chilton

Lew Chilton

    Surveyor 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 1758
  • Joined: 20 Oct 2005
  • Loc: SoCal

Posted 20 October 2011 - 09:50 PM

I think it was back in the 1960s or 70s that my astronomy club (the Los Angeles Astronomical Society) took a tour of the Boller & Chivens plant. They had some really huge lathes, as I remember, with beds something like 15 to 25-feet long.

#4 Darren Drake

Darren Drake

    Mercury-Atlas

  • *****
  • Posts: 2780
  • Joined: 09 Oct 2002
  • Loc: Chicagoland

Posted 23 October 2011 - 02:43 PM

I was just looking through the 24 inch B and C at Yekes Observatory last night. I was pretty impressed with the optics and overall views but there was no diagonal so it was a strain on the necks to look straight through. A few of the objects included M13, 57, 31, and NGC 7662, 7481, 7331 and Jup.

#5 petrogeoman

petrogeoman

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • Posts: 239
  • Joined: 27 Nov 2005

Posted 23 October 2011 - 03:11 PM

There's a 16" B&C at the National Air & Space Museum's "temporary" observatory on the Mall in Washington, DC. Beautiful scope, although its Ash dome is sitting about 20 feet (on the south side) of the atrium that houses the McDonald's fast food court! Not that a little extra light pollution makes much of a difference in downtown DC...

#6 BPO

BPO

    Ranger 4

  • -----
  • Posts: 367
  • Joined: 23 Feb 2010
  • Loc: South Island, NZ

Posted 23 October 2011 - 03:43 PM

Adding to the list: The old 0.6m B&C at Mt John University Observatory is still quite productive, as far as I know.

http://www.phys.cant...acilities.shtml

And a B&C at Carter Observatory:

http://www.nzmuseums..._of_16_aperture

#7 pbealo

pbealo

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 656
  • Joined: 12 Oct 2006
  • Loc: New Hampshire

Posted 24 October 2011 - 07:24 AM

There's a 24" B&C and the CEK Mees Observatory at the University of Rochester. I believe its religated to the astronomy club these days...

#8 gnowellsct

gnowellsct

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 6753
  • Joined: 24 Jun 2009

Posted 30 October 2011 - 07:01 PM

We've got two 16" B&Cs at universities in my area. They haven't been maintained, so the sad truth is that my C14--even a good 8", will walk all over them on planetary detail.

And since they are all in urban zones the typical amateur scope will outperform them on dsos as well if one takes them 30 minutes outside of town.

The one I had the opportunity to work on had some damage to the screws that collimate the secondary mirror and would have required a complete secondary dismount and an investigation + machining and retrofitting to fix. The owner/operator didn't want to authorize us to do that and didn't have the money to pay a professional. During the Mars opposition there was a line of 2,000 people that waited to see this scope for hours. The irony was that the fleet of amateur instruments also deployed around it were cleaning its clock.

All three university scopes in our area (two are B&Cs) are roof mounted which seriously compromises their performance.

So it's somewhat sad to see. OTOH it is also a bit invigorating because when those were built the typical amateur scope was a 6" Newt. The fact that we can easily deploy similar aperture now is terrific.

These are big heavy scopes on massive mounts. More than once Pete and I discussed whether there would be a secondary market for one of these. Our inclination was to think "NO" because of the heaviness of the OTA. It is possible that one could however remove the optics and install in a modern OTA that would make for a more manageable arrangement.



GN

#9 Beerologist

Beerologist

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 97
  • Joined: 29 Jul 2011

Posted 30 October 2011 - 07:08 PM

These are big heavy scopes on massive mounts. More than once Pete and I discussed whether there would be a secondary market for one of these. Our inclination was to think "NO" because of the heaviness of the OTA. It is possible that one could however remove the optics and install in a modern OTA that would make for a more manageable arrangement.


How do you rate the optics in these beasts compared with say a decent set of Zambuto mirrors?

#10 jwheel

jwheel

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 825
  • Joined: 23 Jan 2008
  • Loc: Fort Davis TX

Posted 31 October 2011 - 10:09 AM

The first telescope made by B&C resides here at the McDonald Observatory:

http://mcdonaldobser...ope.php?t_id=22

Joe Wheelock

#11 gnowellsct

gnowellsct

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 6753
  • Joined: 24 Jun 2009

Posted 31 October 2011 - 03:11 PM

These are big heavy scopes on massive mounts. More than once Pete and I discussed whether there would be a secondary market for one of these. Our inclination was to think "NO" because of the heaviness of the OTA. It is possible that one could however remove the optics and install in a modern OTA that would make for a more manageable arrangement.


How do you rate the optics in these beasts compared with say a decent set of Zambuto mirrors?


It would require a crane to move one of these around. I'm sure the optics are good and it may be that you get some tradeoffs--the massive glass might resist deformation better.

Looking at the one on top of the roof at SUNY, I think it would cost about as much to move it as it would cost to buy an RCOS and put it on an AP3600 mount. And all in all the modern tube and OTA would be much more manageable--two or three people could move it around and set it up somewhere.

I did call a company that restored scopes like this professionally and they wanted $100k to make the observatory "friendly" for public use, and that would have left it on top of the roof where it already is.

These sorts of finely made instruments of yesteryear pose interesting questions. They were well made for what they were. But from the scientific point of view they're just sixteen inch scopes and they're much more difficult to use than contemporary 16" scopes.

And I'm not sure that there is a "historic value" to instruments such as this. On the one hand, they're too beautiful to throw out. On the other hand, they're too expensive to maintain and if you just want to do astronomy outreach you can buy a couple of alt-az C11s for under $10k, put them on the lawn instead of the builidng and clean the clock of the instrument on the rooftop.

In fact that's part of the answer, if you take a 16" Zambuto in perfect working order and put it on a hot roof (losing building heat in winter, radiating summer heat in summer) you're going to have a bad Zambuto. But at least you can put the 16" Zambuto on the lawn and get a MUCH better image.

Because these instruments are too nice to throw out and too expesnive to maintain they get kept in semi-usable condition. They get opened up to the public which gets views that are horrible but they don't know better. All they know is that they're in a dome with a telescope and that therefore it must be great. One of the B&Cs I know of was actually abnadoned on the rooftop and forgotten. One of the faculty discovered it and at great personal effort in time (with a few other volunteers) managed to clean out the bird's nests and make it workable. Then there was a change in administration and his small budget vanished. The scope was awarded to the physics department. I don't know what they're doing with it, but it certainly hasn't been used for outreach since the "discoverer" lost control of it.

And of course they never solved the collimation issue. Last I heard they were trying to collimate it using Newt laser collimators (which are useless on a Cassegrain).

But if you said well let's give it to the club--well I'm not sure we would want it. Neither Pete with his 15" nor myself with my 14" would have had any used for an immensely heavy 16".

There is a Boller Chivens in Oregon that was completely rehabbed for public outreach and I understand that one is in good working order. But to my mind you could set up a nice observatory with a c14+AP1200 and serve the public just as well at a fraction of the cost--and frankly, half a dozen c8s or c11s would do the trick too.

Greg N

#12 John Jarosz

John Jarosz

    Astro Gearhead

  • *****
  • Posts: 3209
  • Joined: 25 Apr 2004
  • Loc: Fairfax, Iowa

Posted 31 October 2011 - 04:00 PM

I had never thought of these smaller B&C scopes in this manner - but the logic is correct. Amateur scopes in the 60's were all small with few exceptions. Times change - a lot.

But they still have a very cool appearance.

John

#13 petrogeoman

petrogeoman

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • Posts: 239
  • Joined: 27 Nov 2005

Posted 31 October 2011 - 07:21 PM

I'm sorry, but I can't let someone trash B&Cs like this without chiming in. B&C was the top-line company supplying university observatories in the 1960s to mid-1970s. Current high-end mirror makers have NOTHING on the optics B&C was producing back then. Periodic error? I'd be indifferent between a B&C (or Ealing) mount and an AP1200 or Paramount in terms of gear quality. (Obviously, there's a huge difference in electronics/software integration now.)

It's not fair to disrespect a scope because it was designed to be in a permanent set up and because most of those set-ups aren't optimally located.

"These instruments are too nice to throw out..." REALLY????

#14 tim53

tim53

    Cosmos

  • *****
  • Posts: 9260
  • Joined: 17 Dec 2004
  • Loc: Highland Park, CA

Posted 31 October 2011 - 07:34 PM

Outreach is a fine endeavor, but these scopes were built for research.

Milton Aupperle (author of Astro IIDC software) has been taking exoplanet transit and asteroid light curves with an 8" RC from his city balcony or porch in Canada. Imagine what he could do with a scope that doesn't need to be set up and polar aligned every time he wants to take a light curve, then take it all down and put it away at the end of the observing session.

These scopes were built to be used. They should be used!

-Tim.

#15 petrogeoman

petrogeoman

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • Posts: 239
  • Joined: 27 Nov 2005

Posted 31 October 2011 - 08:03 PM

They get opened up to the public which gets views that are horrible but they don't know better.


I guess the nine million visitors coming to NASM each year don't know any better? Here's a couple of links on the sweet 16" B&C that's on site:

Harvard-Smithsonian 16" B&C

NASM 16" B&C installation video

As Tim said, these were research telescopes. They're from a mostly bygone era in which universities and professional observatories (e.g., Kitt Peak) used them for photoelectric photometry, 4x5 plate photography, astrometry, micrometer measurements of double stars and spectroscopy.

#16 Beerologist

Beerologist

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 97
  • Joined: 29 Jul 2011

Posted 31 October 2011 - 08:32 PM

No doubt your criticism of the Boller and Chivens telescopes is well intentioned but you could have saved me a whole lot of reading by just admitting you don't know how the optics rate against the products of current leading mirror makers. No offense intended here, I'm just saying.

Does anyone know how these old mirrors stack up against the Zambutos and similar brands?

#17 gnowellsct

gnowellsct

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 6753
  • Joined: 24 Jun 2009

Posted 01 November 2011 - 10:45 PM

I'm sorry, but I can't let someone trash B&Cs like this without chiming in. B&C was the top-line company supplying university observatories in the 1960s to mid-1970s. Current high-end mirror makers have NOTHING on the optics B&C was producing back then. Periodic error? I'd be indifferent between a B&C (or Ealing) mount and an AP1200 or Paramount in terms of gear quality. (Obviously, there's a huge difference in electronics/software integration now.)

It's not fair to disrespect a scope because it was designed to be in a permanent set up and because most of those set-ups aren't optimally located.

"These instruments are too nice to throw out..." REALLY????



There are lots of folks who collect old cars for scrap (junk yards), and a very few folks who collect various old cars for restoration, enjoyment, resale. You have people who collect old Newts, to use, enjoy, resell, tear down for parts, whatever. But B&Cs have an odd place in the world. Not enough of them to attract the scrap metal industry and not enough amateur interest to have people looking for opportunities to make a score. I bet a lot of institutions would part with these instruments for not much $.

As I mentioned, I know of at least one B&C in Oregon that is up and running and in tip top shape (last I checked) and someone here just referred to another one. They certainly *can* be great scopes. The question is, if you were setting up an observatory today, and wanted a 16" scope, would the cost of procuring, transporting, and rehabbing a 16" B&C be worth it compared to getting something new? I even tossed around the idea of moving the U's B&C to our dark sky site. But (a) cheaper to get a modern instrument and (b) in an isolated site an instrument like that is a target for vandalism and theft: my club had an instrument stolen from a locked rural observatory about 20 years ago.

It doesn't matter whether the scope is for outreach or research.

Mt Wilson--I recall a post from some time ago, probably on sci.astro.amateur--had a sixteen inch Newt that was used by amateur. The observatory wanted to get rid of it and someone posted trying to get a campaign up to save it because it had been a workhorse for local public outreach. But I don't remember any takers. Speaking as an astromarter, if someone told me I could *have* the B&C at the local U I'd say "no" or figure that I would have to advertise it for pick up only, buyer to do removal. The quickest way to turn a profit with one would be to remove the optics and sell them to a motivated person with OTA building skills.

As for B&C optics if you can find one that's operational and collimated they're great. You get diffraction limited or better. But they're not going to clean the clock of a zambuto or vice versa.

Purists will especially object to the HUGE secondary obstruction. It dwarfs a C14's secondary. It's basically a huge motorized can that moves the secondary in and out to achieve focus. There are buttons on the rear for that. Failure of that motor, and failure of the assembly to do its job precisely as the decades go buy, is one of the leading causes of B&C failure, I'd guess. The B&C OTAs add considerable thermal mass to the tube. I did not see any fans. There is a huge steel plate on the back with push pull screws to adjust mirror position, but there are also collimation adjustments on the armor plated motorized secondary. My guess is that the secondary assembly must weigh 20 lbs or so, and it is held up by a hefty spider. If you're bothered by CO this is not the scope for you; I know we measured the CO but I forget the exact dimensions, I think it was at 40% or more not counting the supports. I think they could have slenderized the secondary assembly by making the mirror doing the focus but then perhaps that would have left mirror shift issues (as now happens with standard amateur SCTs) so they opted against it.

IMHO the Griffith obvservatory which has a famous Zeiss refractor is the ideal kind of situation needed to maintain an old scope. Whether a B&C merits the same custodial care as a Zeiss 12" I leave to the experts.

I'm articulating a different thought, which is that just as one can't find a home for every old battleship, one can't find a home for every old telescope. I'm not sure the sentimentality is warranted.

I would however say this: that if someone gave it some thought and designed a modern OTA and mount assembly around the optics of some of these older instruments, that they could probably be put into service again and possibly even more cost effectively. But that's an engineering question.

The problem here is that the research institutions don't want that aperture (maybe some undergrad institutions do, for teaching methods) and if they want to do outreach they can get similar apertures, better maintained, at zero cost, by developing a relationship with the local amateur club. So if you set up your B&C recovery and recycling business you'd probably end up competing against RCOS (the very high end amateur market) and maybe not with that much of a cost advantage.

When I put in my week of time researching ways to make the B&C more usable I discovered a number of orphaned instruments in this aperture range at various schools across the country. Some of them are basically run by local amateurs, but in many cases, the local amateurs have only limited interest because they can take similar apertures of their own out to dark sky sites.

It is possible from time to time to get a donor to sponsor a telescope/observatory, *but no one wants to pay operating costs.* They just want to make a one-off donation to put their name on the plaque outside the door. When there is no money for operating costs, the instrument slowly dies. A very common cause of telescope death is that the person who knows how to use the instrument retires or gets another job and the institution that houses the instrument decides that getting someone who specifically can keep the old instrument going is not a good use of institutional resources. The instrument then gets neglected and deteriorates. In some cases the institution develops a relationship with a motivated amateur or amateurs and the instrument is kept alive for public outreach. Some well funded places keep a whole bunch of things going for public outreach. Harvard is one example. They have not only telescopes but museums (the glass flowers at the Harvard Museum of Natural History are little known, and the collection is one of the great masterpieces of science/art in the world).

My personal view, for what it's worth, is that our society has a huge economic capacity. Crummy movies have run up multi-hundred million dollar budgets. We could do a lot a more to improve access to science and keeping some of these instruments going is one way to do so.

But if you were to ask me what would be best for the development of interest in science, rehabbing a poorly placed B&C at $100k or buying 200 eight inch dobs and placing them at forty different high schools, I'm not sure I would know what to say. But I can tell you there are a lot of orphaned instruments out there and many of the people posting here about how great the B&Cs are would not personally want to own one. And if they were sitting on the board of directors of an outreach group, or a group promoting serious research (say variable stars) with small aperture instruments, I'm not sure they'd vote for rehabbing the B&C over the alternatives, either. But in a very few places decisions to rehab have been made with good results.

Incidentally the B&C 16" I used had an f/10 or longer 4" side mounted achromat as a "finder" and what with the main instrument at f/15 or so that made for very "interesting" times finding fairly simple targets. I think just before I stopped visiting the instrument someone stuck a rigel finder on it. The 16" B&C had a minimum magnification of abut 150x and a maximum field of view of less than 30 arc minutes.

The USD $2 million spent on rehabbing the Rosse telescope (which a few years later was again non-operational), my research into neglected small instrument observatories at universities, and my experience during the Mars opposition (when my local club fielded a dozen good to high performing instruments that were deployed around the dysfunctional university instrument), some of my own ventures into rehabbing older instruments (with various degrees of success): I've come to have a more cautious view about my own personal attachment to scopes of yesteryear and the "domed observatory as host" model of public outreach. The institutions that purchased B&Cs have for the most part abandoned them. The amateurs have not for the most part salvaged them. By contrast, the amateur community has done an excellent job of keeping 1970s vintage c11s, C14s, and 1950s and 1960s refractors and Newtonians operational. This is telling us something about design, function, end use, and "the market" but I can't put it into one pithy sentence.

Greg N

#18 Beerologist

Beerologist

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 97
  • Joined: 29 Jul 2011

Posted 01 November 2011 - 11:45 PM

So if some outfit lets a local astro club know that they are willing to donate their fully functional but unused B & C, do you think it would be a bad idea for a bunch of the club members to show up with a crane and flatbed and haul it off to their dark sky site. Maybe even construct a brand new dome or ROR to house it? Since we're talking volunteer labor (probably including the truck and crane - there are all kinds of trade guys at astro clubs!) the only real cost would be a new structure for the scope assuming none already existed for it.

How much for a 16" RCOS and a PME and all the other things needed to make a brand new scope operational? Not to mention if you need a new house for the B & C you'll probably need one for a new RCOS too.

The argument seems to be that all of these B & C are in a poorly maintained and junky state that would require a ton of money and manpower to set right again and then whoever drags it away will have to pay some company top rates to do it. I don't buy that at all. Maybe some are neglected, maybe even most, but the scenario I mentioned first doesn't sound too off to me.

Nice post though. It wandered all over the place but I didn't mind so much because a lot of it was interesting.

#19 tim53

tim53

    Cosmos

  • *****
  • Posts: 9260
  • Joined: 17 Dec 2004
  • Loc: Highland Park, CA

Posted 02 November 2011 - 06:52 AM

Greg:

Your description of what you think is happening in the world of vintage automobiles, and your willingness to scrap a vintage and intact Optical Craftsmen because of a bad primary gives me the reasonable impression that your view of the value of these old B&C scopes is also not representative of the amateur astronomical community as a whole - particularly those interested in vintage instruments. These people (the antique telescope society, for example) recognize the value of the old instruments even in today's digital age.

I find it very sad to see a vintage or even an antique telescope neglected. But I believe that in cases like this it would be far better to leave them alone than to part them out and scrap them. Maybe future generations can appreciate them enough to restore them and use them as built.

Clarence Custer's 12" Springfield is a good example of a historically-important instrument that has been irrevocably lost.

-Tim.

#20 John Jarosz

John Jarosz

    Astro Gearhead

  • *****
  • Posts: 3209
  • Joined: 25 Apr 2004
  • Loc: Fairfax, Iowa

Posted 02 November 2011 - 07:40 AM

Usually, restorations of old cars or motorcycles are done at huge costs that are not returned to the restorer upon a sale to a third party. The restorer does it because he has some emotional involvement with a particular vehicle. (I'm talking about full restorations, not a general clean up). The second or third owner after the restoration is usually the one who benefits financially from the restoration. (The parade of vehicles you see on Mecums or any of the other car auctions are not indicative of reality as most of those cars you see are "put together" using NOS or Asian repro parts. "All the numbers match", but that means little).

Those B&C telescopes were designed using the concept of "building something for the ages". Nothing on them is off the shelf or consumer grade. Everything was designed especially for that device and custom made. Is it surprising that when a major component fails the cost to repair/replace is in the stratosphere? Financially, organizations can't justify putting huge dollars into a scope that researchers don't want to use because the scope was not built with current research in mind.

Usually a big stumbling block are the controls. The B&C scopes of that era usually were made with a big welded steel box with their controls inside and minimal external access to the components. Today that same control module would be an electronic rack mount system that allows easy changeout of components as the technology changes. To make those same changes on a B&C scope you would have to essentially scrap the original control and supersede it with rack mounted components. And then the sidebar question becomes: Are you restoring the device or changing it to work in today's environment? Researchers may admire old technology but they want a remotely operable dark site instrument that they can operate from their office on campus. So those old instruments become the domain of amateurs who have time to repair, but no real money to restore. Like I said earlier: Times change... a lot!

Amateurs want to make pretty pictures (mostly), so periodic error is a huge deal. Researchers who are making measurements or spectrograms may not care so much about PE, but they want remote operation. Do you think that correcting either of those issues on a B&C scope from the 50's or 60's would be easy? or cheap?

#21 gnowellsct

gnowellsct

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 6753
  • Joined: 24 Jun 2009

Posted 02 November 2011 - 08:38 AM

So if some outfit lets a local astro club know that they are willing to donate their fully functional but unused B & C, do you think it would be a bad idea for a bunch of the club members to show up with a crane and flatbed and haul it off to their dark sky site. Maybe even construct a brand new dome or ROR to house it? Since we're talking volunteer labor (probably including the truck and crane - there are all kinds of trade guys at astro clubs!) the only real cost would be a new structure for the scope assuming none already existed for it.

How much for a 16" RCOS and a PME and all the other things needed to make a brand new scope operational? Not to mention if you need a new house for the B & C you'll probably need one for a new RCOS too.

The argument seems to be that all of these B & C are in a poorly maintained and junky state that would require a ton of money and manpower to set right again and then whoever drags it away will have to pay some company top rates to do it. I don't buy that at all. Maybe some are neglected, maybe even most, but the scenario I mentioned first doesn't sound too off to me.

Nice post though. It wandered all over the place but I didn't mind so much because a lot of it was interesting.


I think you are 100% on target. The way to save one of these scopes is exactly as you describe, a bunch of guys giving it a bunch of weekends.

You would definitely need a machinist.

Tim and I are not as far apart as he thinks on these matters. By parting an old scope out, one is often making the parts available to someone else with an old scope. Sometimes directly, and sometimes indirectly (when the buyer of the parts in his turn becomes a seller). The important thing is to keep all the parts in use *somewhere*. Because when they are at the bottom of a wet basement rusting they are doing neither the old scope collectors nor the part-and-use people any service, and they eventually deteriorate to junk.

The B&C pointing mechanisms are kinda fun to work with but it is old style analog setting circles.

One thing to think about in considering how often it is possible/desirable to salvage these instruments is to consider how small the amateur astronomy community is and then consider that in the amateur astronomy community the true devotees of old instruments, with means, money, time, inclination and skills is only a subset of the whole. So we're talking about a very small number of people.

It is correct that the B&Cs were "built for the ages" in some sense (heavy, durable) but not in another sense (easy to upgrade). It doesn't mean that they are what you want, however. Meade "builds heavy" on its OTAs and I consider that a design flaw. It requires "more mount" and adds to thermal stabilization problems.

I really *do* like technology and am the kind of person who will gawk at a well restored train from the 19th c and who will make a special pilgrimage to Birr Castle in Ireland to see one of the most famous and legendary of old telescopes, and put Ireland on my "must see list" BECAUSE it has the legendary telescope. But as I say, I've been learning life lessons along the way.

I understand one of the MS billionaires is collecting computers from teh 1950s and 1960s, and has a person working for him who does that full time and goes all over the world. I think most of us are more powerfully attracted to telescopes than to computers. But therein is the whole tale. You don't restore a 16" B&C because it is the best option or best view you're going to get or anything else. You do it because you think it would be wonderful to restore and operate a 16" B&C.

Of course for the amateurs who undertake this sort of project there is a different problem: the (probably small) group that undertakes the restoration will eventually dissolve. And then once again the instrument becomes a maintenance problem. There are amateur scopes which, when the owner dies, get locked up in the back yard observatory because the widow doesn't know what to do with it or perhaps doesn't want to part with the emotionally laden instruments.

And by the time someone says jeeze I can sell this, is junk. Incidentally the Leviathan instrument in Ireland was just a millionaire's version of this story. I think one of his son's used it for a while and gave up on it. And then it began the process of disintegrating in the (giant) back yard.

The bigger and heavier these things are (Leviathan, B&C, Yerkes 40 inch refractor) the more problematic they become. A four inch 19th c telescope restored is a beautiful thing that can be kept in the home and looked *at* as much as through; there are others that are mounted in observatories and doing good service. The Yerkes 40 inch became a white elephant, I think it was owned by U Chicago and then they tried to get a developer to take it. This is really the sort of thing that should be maintained as a national heritage item, IMHO. It should be part of an extensive science museum complex.

Greg N

#22 gnowellsct

gnowellsct

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 6753
  • Joined: 24 Jun 2009

Posted 02 November 2011 - 08:45 AM

Incidentally, one of the reasons the B&Cs don't have an avid fan base working to restore them--is that the scientific community has an "instrumental" approach (not a sentimental one) and the B&Cs never were widely owned and used by the amateur community. Too expensive, impossible to carry around. So the people with "sentiment to spare" on old scopes direct their attentions to 50s and 60s Newts and refractors--the things they loved when they were kids.

GN

#23 CAVEMASTER

CAVEMASTER

    Mariner 2

  • *****
  • Posts: 201
  • Joined: 22 May 2007
  • Loc: Southern Indiana

Posted 02 November 2011 - 01:14 PM

"So the people with "sentiment to spare" on old scopes direct their attentions to 50s and 60s Newts and refractors--the things they loved when they were kids."
THAT IS AN AXIOM IF I EVER SAW ONE!

Did I even use that term right? :shrug:

#24 Beerologist

Beerologist

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 97
  • Joined: 29 Jul 2011

Posted 02 November 2011 - 02:21 PM

You repeat the part about "sentimentality" a lot, but I'm not interested in that as a factor. My point is that if some place like a college has one of these telescopes that is in essentially 100% working order and is willing to donate it or sell it cheaply to a club, why wouldn't its members make the effort to acquire it and maybe relocate it?

The cost of a new high quality telescope isn't trivial and not too many clubs have a lot of cash on hand to spend. The money and work required to bring the drive system into the 21st century is probably a non issue because the club most likely won't be doing the research a University was doing with the telescope and if the 1960s drive was good enough for visual and photographic work when it was new it ought to be okay now so long as it hasn't deteriorated.

Most people are willing to make compromises and sacrifices like computerized goto when the telescope is a good one and is free or cheap.

If some organization said to me "Here, have this once very expensive 16" or 24" research scope that is still in great condition for free or a few bucks so long as you take it away!" I know I would probably jump at the chance. Sentimentality has nothing to do with it.

#25 tim53

tim53

    Cosmos

  • *****
  • Posts: 9260
  • Joined: 17 Dec 2004
  • Loc: Highland Park, CA

Posted 02 November 2011 - 03:52 PM

I certainly wouldn't turn down a B&C if it was offered to me for the cost of moving it. Especially if I could have the building it was housed in.

I remember using the 16" at Mt Laguna quite fondly. Though sentimentality has a little to do with it... I credit that scope and my experiences with it for giving me the idea to major in geology rather than astronomy - because I was pretty much alone in enjoying using the telescope more than becoming a professional astronomer (I'm a professional planetary geologist). It is memorable precisely because the scope was so reliable and the drive was accurate.

They also had a 24" at Mt Laguna, but the drive wasn't as accurate or reliable as the B&C - which was a breeze to guide.

As for upgrading, I would think this would be very easy to do, and could be done with bolt-on reversible changes that wouldn't hurt the decades long-term value of the instrument.

An amateur might think they can't live without goto, but setting circles are almost as fast to use if you've done it much (and the setting circles on the Mt Laguna B&C were huge, and easy to read without having to get close to them). I'm not an electrician, but I can't believe it would be anything more than trivial to modify or build a drive corrector to add an ST4 port for autoguiding.

After that, what the heck would you need to make it a premier outreach and research instrument? Portability in the back of a Fiat 500?

While most professional astronomers prefer operating a telescope remotely from their home institution, even professional observatories need to have someone on site in case something breaks or goes haywire. For me, half the fun is being at the telescope (or near it), under the same stars. I spend as much time looking at the sky with binoculars or the naked eye as I do looking through the telescope (probably more, since I like to image).

And a permanently-mounted anything is going to be more conducive to research activities like exoplanet transits and asteroid light curve observations - just to name a couple of activities that are currently enjoying a surge of amateur interest.

One of my favorite comments about goto was a remark that Don Parker made when someone asked him what he could do to replace the drive motor that had failed on his original Skysensor-driven 80mm Celestron/Vixen refractor. When Don suggested he buy a cheap AC 1/10 RPM motor as a replacement, the owner complained, "but then I wouldn't be able to slew!" Don's remark was "He's got a 3 inch telescope and he wants to slew??" That was 15 or so years ago. Now, of course, people seem almost afraid to even touch the controls of their telescopes (no matter how small) or read a setting circle. They have to be able to hit a button on their HCs or iPhone apps to be able to find anything.

What happens when these electronical gizmoids become obsolete and start to fail and the manufacturer doesn't want to repair it (like most Meade products from the mid 80s)? My 9.25" SCT's encoders appear to be going on the fritz, so it tracks too fast. If I plug the thing in, I can't use it. If I don't plug it in, I can't use it. Guess I'll have to fix it!

I've heard that the original weight-driven Victorian drive for the 60" on Mt Wilson was more accurate and reliable than the modern drive added in the 70s. I think they should consider putting it back!

-Tim.






Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics