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Heard about an 8" Alvan Clark & Sons f/14 at U.F.?

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#1 Jason H.

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 11:41 PM

I've been working on a website for Florida Astronomy and stumbled across this factoid that there's an 8" Alvan Clark & Sons refractor at U.F. Gainesville Campus Teaching Observatory with these specs "203 mm / 2920 mm = f/14"

Has anybody here looked through this on their public night? I'm contemplating making a special trip up there to see it (if it's available at their "open house" nights, and I'm wondering how this puppy performs, like one needs to ask, but hey, maybe something's peculiar about it? Clamshell or defect or under restoration etc.; it's a long round trip for me and just very curious about it.)

Thanks in advance for any info on this particular scope.

Regards, Jason W. Higley

#2 Joe Cepleur

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 07:21 AM

I do not know this particular scope, but there is a Clark two hours from me that I plan to see. The word from a knowledgeable, objective friend is that, by modern standards, our Clark is lacking. If that sounds heretical, it's actually no impediment to driving a light-year to see a Clark. One sees them because they are magnificently crafted embodiments of history, with optics polished through the magic of the master's sensitive thumbs. Besides, an antique 8" Clark will surely blow the doors off your best 60mm! Unless you catch Caveman's 9" Perl or Brian's 6" Super Planetary at some star party (both are Astro-Physics), how many large refractors will you ever see in your lifetime? Definitely worth the drive if it is at all serviceable!

#3 Mr Magoo

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 07:39 AM

Well, it does say, "An historic 8-inch Clark refractor that delivers exquisite views of the Moon and the planets." Sounds worth the drive to me on a clear night.

#4 JustinO

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 03:37 PM

http://www.astroadve...ObservatoryH...

#5 wfj

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 03:44 PM

The word from a knowledgeable, objective friend is that, by modern standards, our Clark is lacking. ...

No surprise. Clark's are mythic giants in the large. No pun intended.

... If that sounds heretical, ...

We'd like all the icons of our past to be pure and unalloyed.

This, however, has not been my experience with antiques of any stripe, especially telescopes. Extra especially refractors.

The issues with antique reflectors are usually about coatings and cool down / material inhomogeneity. Since coatings must be redone, when they are, they are modern, and thus not an issue anymore.

The issues with antique refractors are much wider.

Of the large Clark's, the only one I care for optically is the 24" Lowell. That one is worth the trip.

A similar worthy trip is to look through the 82" Otto Struve telescope at MacDonald Observatory.

Frankly, the 36" Lick and the 40" Yerkes are not.

... One sees them because they are magnificently crafted embodiments of history ...

Yes. Its like visiting a zoo, where the animal is displayed in its context.

With the really big refractors, its the huge facilities that surround them, the rising/lowering floors, the absurd
gyrations necessary to man handle the things. In the case of Lick, there's a tomb of Lick at the base of the pier you "visit" on leaving.

I've used/fixed/maintained small to large Clark's myself, and I can tell you they are very peculiar and not designed for the observer's convenience - more the case that they are a challenge to get results out of.

Another thing to remember is that science instruments are designed around very specific needs - in the case of such refractors, using filar micrometers to measure double stars, or in the case of reflectors, being giant cameras or light buckets to illuminate the slits of a spectroscope.

What amazes me is that a E.E. Barnard could some how use them so magnificently, that a Lewis Swift could find comets enough to raise $13,000 to fund a 16-inch, and find a half dozen of them with it! When I used the same scope to view early found comets, where I accurately knew location, had a finder chart, better eps, similar skies ... it was hard to believe possible.

I wish I had those guys to talk to, simply to figure out how they did what they did with what they had.

I view the instruments simply as memorials to them.

And, unfortunately, the better but smaller instruments, like the 12" refractor that was at Lick ... aren’t being made available ... because only the behemoth will draw crowds:

http://loen.ucolick....t/Refurb_pro...


#6 pbealo

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 04:17 PM

Don't forget the 26" Clark at McCormick Observatory at UVA! I had the chance to view through it 3 years ago and it was wonderful. M13 was awesome. And the "little" 6" Clark out back produced some beautiful, if almost filtered looking(looked yellowish) images of Jupiter.

Peter B.

#7 Dan /schechter

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 07:09 PM

I observed through both of those telescopes at the Virginia meeting of the Antique Telescope Society and can second Peter`s observations. Great scopes!!!!
Dan

#8 Ducky62

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 11:14 PM

Don't forget the 26" Clark at McCormick Observatory at UVA! I had the chance to view through it 3 years ago and it was wonderful. M13 was awesome. And the "little" 6" Clark out back produced some beautiful, if almost filtered looking(looked yellowish) images of Jupiter.

Peter B.


Wouldn't a yellowish Jupiter indicate chromatic aberration?

#9 Joe Cepleur

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Posted 29 October 2012 - 05:32 AM

Wouldn't a yellowish Jupiter indicate chromatic aberration?


Or perhaps yellow glass? My club has an antique objective with distinctly yellow glass. I've wondered whether it turned yellow over time, or was like that when new. Anyone ever seen yellow glass before, and know its history?

#10 pbealo

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Posted 29 October 2012 - 07:44 AM

My guess it was yellowish glass, but I only got to observe at night so didn't have a chance to really inspect the lens.

One thing we learned about access to the 26" was that if an undergraduate volunteered to work open nights and learned how to use it, then they'd have personall access to the scope. What a nice toy to play with!
Peter B.

#11 Napersky

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 04:10 PM

My understanding is that a couple small colleges have traded out their smaller Alvin Clark's for larger Meade SCT 12" gotos.

More than one Clark out there came to the private market because some knucklehead (IMHO) thought the Meade would perform better and traded it out.

Prove me wrong people, maybe this is all just myth.

#12 mikey cee

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 04:24 PM

Mark as many knuckleheads as there are out there I think the odds are you're quite safe. :lol: :lol: Mike

#13 Joe Cepleur

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 08:09 PM

My understanding is that a couple small colleges have traded out their smaller Alvin Clark's for larger Meade SCT 12" gotos.

More than one Clark out there came to the private market because some knucklehead (IMHO) thought the Meade would perform better and traded it out.

Prove me wrong people, maybe this is all just myth.


It hardly matters whether or not a new Meade performs better than a Clark. When one owns a piece of history, one preserves it. Astronomy is among the last sciences where students can learn the process of discovery by entirely recreating it with their own eyes, minds, and hands. No need to find all the known millions of objects; a manageable selection will do. A Clark uniquely teaches the constraints under which our forebears revealed the heavens, and so instructs in the essence of scientific discovery. Add a modern scope to this lesson of you will, but do not sell the master's tools just for lack of appreciating their importance.

#14 wfj

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 12:08 AM

Its even more stupid than that.

In the case of one institution with a large Clark (which will remain nameless), they closed down the observatory for liability concerns. They'd worry that the students staying up late might party, indulge ... and something bad would happen.

Or, that in going up ladders/stairs/slippery floors ... a member of the public would crack a hip joint and they'd be liable for a quarter of a million.

With heaving around a large Clark, it can carry you 20 feet in the air if you let it. If you let an insurance agent see one of these scopes, they'll go nuts. Worse, show a pic of quarter round "bleacher" ladder/seats used by Swift and others in the past, and they'll freak out even more.

A nearby community college extracted its 16" homebuilt Newtonian on an English mount (truck axle!), and replaced it with a less capable Meade SCT. The SCT can be maintained/repaired through various sources, while the prior scope most who know the construction details passed away years ago. As again also, less liability with fewer things sticking out for people to bump into, poke eyes out on, etc.

Also, consider the training - teaching someone how to use a modern scope and its peculiarities is much more tractable.

No, old heritage scopes are not by any means institutional favourites. Also, in our "brand obsessed" culture, they don't see the history, they don't presume the quality. For those who try to fund heritage instruments, its not so easy a sell given these matters.

#15 JustinO

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 02:23 AM

I'm hoping to reverse the trend with an 8" Clark. To make it happen, I'm reducing costs to a minimum and pushing the historic and romantic angles. It's doable, but I'm putting a lot of time and money into the project.

There is nothing in astronomy as sexy as a classic refractor in a classic dome.

--Justin

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#16 Joe Cepleur

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 07:41 AM

I'm hoping to reverse the trend with an 8" Clark. To make it happen, I'm reducing costs to a minimum and pushing the historic and romantic angles. It's doable, but I'm putting a lot of time and money into the project.

There is nothing in astronomy as sexy as a classic refractor in a classic dome.

--Justin


How tantalizing! Please, land the plane. What exactly are you doing? The implication is that you are saving an old Clark, either privately or as a consultant to an institution lacking knuckleheads.

#17 JustinO

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 11:43 AM

I have a 2000 lb, 15 ft tall Clark that needs a home. There is a conveniently located College across the street that could use some good PR for their physical sciences. Still working on them, but it looks promising. If things work out, I'm thinking of using a couple shipping containers on concrete stilts, and a sixteen foot steel dome.

The telescope was owned by Gustavus Cook. It is virtually identical to the Clyde Bishop telescope. It is believed to be the telescope ordered by Manuel Castresana, who died before delivery.

#18 John Jarosz

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 05:16 PM

Don't forget the 18.5" Clark at Northwestern University

They still have public nights on a regular basis. I first went there in high school, convincing my Dad to drive me. He liked astronomy, but not so much college football. When we arrived on a Friday night the campus was in the midst of a Homecoming Parade. He was not amused. We had to wait for the parade to pass before we could cross over to the observatory. Funny, the things one remembers......


John

#19 Larrythebrewer

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 06:06 PM

I quests I'm lucky, my club has an 8" in a dome, some of the best views I've seen of Saturn & Jupiter have been thru it & if I recall views did have a yellow tint. It's used all the time for public events. The Cincinnati observatory center on the other side of town also has a Clark they use.
http://www.cinastro....ut-us/equipment

#20 Jason H.

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Posted 01 November 2012 - 05:40 PM

Well, from all those responses I think it's clear that I need to get myself up there. I'll post images as soon as I can make the trip (assuming they still permit public access, as I see they had some talk of moving it on their site; I wonder if anyone's seen it lately on their "open house" night?) I guess I'll just call them tomorrow and see what's up with the scope and their schedule.

Regards and thanks to all for very interesting posts (I'm not trying to wind-up the thread, just thanking; I'd imagine based on the above that there must be quite a few interesting Clark stories out there, probably a few books worth, maybe even a documentary movie or 2!)

Jason W. Higley

#21 roscoe

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Posted 01 November 2012 - 07:55 PM

Also, there is an 18" f/17 Clark at Amherst College in Amherst Mass, they have public observing May thru Oct on Sat's at 9 PM (never been there, even though it's only a bit more than an hour's drive away...) Check the Amherst Astro Association for details.
Russ

#22 oldscope

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 04:30 PM

Jason, it is definitely worth your while to investigate this interesting telescope. It is a little disappointing to a purist that it has been modified a good deal, but the other side it that it is being used! This particular telescope has a long and colorful history. It's original owner was Richard Ernest (or Ernst) Schmidt, Chicago architect and noted amateur astronomer in the Chicago area. Schmidt was a trustee at Adler and a President of the Chicago Astronomical Society, and a member of ASP and the AAS. He had a 15 foot dome housing an 8" Clark/Gaertner telescope.

"A Chicago architect, Richard E. Schmidt, years ago placed an eight-inch Alvan Clark refractor on his three-story-and-basement residence. [113 Bellevue Place, Chicago] "My telescope support," he replies to inquiry,"consists of two 10-inch steel I-beams extending a span of 175 feet from wall to wall, and bearing at their ends on wooden studs Their webs are 24 inches apart and the beams are enclosed full length in Portland cement concrete, 36 inches wide and 16 inches deep. This was done to gain mass. The telescope pedestal at the center of the span is also of concrete, 28 inches square at its base, 30 inches high and 24 inches square at the top. I estimate the weight of the telescope at 2,500 pounds, and of the concrete-and-steel beams at 12,000 pounds. The observatory floor and dome were supported by wooden joists, and the floor is nowhere in contact with the pedestal or the concrete-and-steel beam. William Gaertner set the instrument. He, Petitdidier, Dr Philip Fox and Professor F. R. Moulton, who visited me a number of times, found the installation free of vibration. My house is one of a long row on the sand of an ancient beach. I doubt whether the house would have been free of vibration had it been on clay soil. A factor which doubtless helped prevent vibration was the brick walls of a light shaft built at right angles to those of wood which support the main beam and act as buttress walls."

-- from A 10" Telescope, Dry-Paper Dry Rouge Polishing, Telescope Mounts on Buildings by Albert G. Ingalls, March, 1949

The house in Chicago is still there but the dome has long since been removed. The telescope was removed and used as part of an exhibition at Adler. It is unclear whether it was put back in the dome or if it sat at Adler until going to Florida, which I suspect is the case. Perhaps when you visit, you can do it during an open house evening and actually get to use it. Good luck!

Bart Fried
Antique Telescope Society
New York NY

#23 Ziggy943

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 07:09 PM

I can state categorically that a Clark will match up to modern optics inch for inch. I still have not seen better optics inch for inch than my 9”. It is a gem.

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#24 Rich (RLTYS)

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 06:50 AM

BIG. :shocked: :ooo:

Rich (RLTYS)

#25 wfj

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 01:28 PM

Actually, it's a "small"(<12") Clark in my book.

In my limited experience, generally it was the smaller ones that were uniform best, meaning that I ran into more good (sampling bias - there are more of them) than bad (only one and didn't have the time with the instrument to find out why).

The biggest of the big, not just from me but others, aren't so great. Some of the bigger are good. Many of the mediums (12-16") are good - one 12" I know is excellent.






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