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Mechanical telescope drives

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#1 Leo Horishny

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Posted 10 January 2022 - 09:49 PM

Happened across a thread here 2 years ago, where someone asked if mechanical telescope drives were still made, and I want to share, if anyone’s interested in this trivia: the Cincinnati Observatory has 2 telescopes, one sponsored by Ormsby Mitchell in the late 1800s, (absolutely stunning looking) but the “newer” one, a 16” refractor, was built in the 1910s, iirc, and that telescope should still have its original hand wound clockwork drive.

Also, Cincinnati trivia, locals there should know: the current Mt. Adams was renamed that in honor of former President Adams who rode out to dedicate the original refractor and site of the observatory that was placed atop the original Mt. Ida.
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#2 Terra Nova

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Posted 11 January 2022 - 11:34 AM

Happened across a thread here 2 years ago, where someone asked if mechanical telescope drives were still made, and I want to share, if anyone’s interested in this trivia: the Cincinnati Observatory has 2 telescopes, one sponsored by Ormsby Mitchell in the late 1800s, (absolutely stunning looking) but the “newer” one, a 16” refractor, was built in the 1910s, iirc, and that telescope should still have its original hand wound clockwork drive.

Also, Cincinnati trivia, locals there should know: the current Mt. Adams was renamed that in honor of former President Adams who rode out to dedicate the original refractor and site of the observatory that was placed atop the original Mt. Ida.

The larger (newer) one was built by Alvan Clark and Sons. It does have the original mechanical drive. The older (1843) telescope is a Merz and the original mechanical drive was replaced years ago with a large AC motor drive but I’m pretty sure the original drive is still stored in the basement. There has been talk of restoring it.


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#3 Leo Horishny

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Posted 11 January 2022 - 12:38 PM

Good to know, thanks for the update. I was lucky enough to volunteer there during the Halley era for a few years, so, I could only comment from decades ago.😉
It is a local history treasure not nearly as known as it ought to be.
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#4 Terra Nova

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Posted 11 January 2022 - 01:13 PM

Good to know, thanks for the update. I was lucky enough to volunteer there during the Halley era for a few years, so, I could only comment from decades ago.
It is a local history treasure not nearly as known as it ought to be.

It is magnificent. And aside from the two main observatory scopes there is a ‘mini museum’ of other wonderful and rare antique telescopes and other optical instruments. Restoration of the transit telescope is also in the works. Many people don’t realize just how very important the Cincinnati Observatory was to the founding and establishment of American astronomy in the 19th and early 20th century. The observatory spans an entire century really where some major contributions were made, from the 1840s to the 1940s.


Edited by Terra Nova, 11 January 2022 - 01:15 PM.

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#5 Astrojensen

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Posted 11 January 2022 - 01:17 PM

It should be eminently possible to build a gravity clock drive with homemade, 3D-printed cogwheels, as the loads are quite low. It could be a fun project to build one for an EQ-5/Vixen GP mount. 

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark


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#6 Terra Nova

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Posted 11 January 2022 - 01:20 PM

It should be eminently possible to build a gravity clock drive with homemade, 3D-printed cogwheels, as the loads are quite low. It could be a fun project to build one for an EQ-5/Vixen GP mount. 

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark

Plastic gears really can work:

 

https://youtu.be/fgIm1mJCyRU

 

:lol:


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#7 Astrojensen

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Posted 11 January 2022 - 01:24 PM

Plastic gears really can work:

 

https://youtu.be/fgIm1mJCyRU

 

lol.gif

Wow, never seen one of those before! That commercial really screams 1950/60'ies USA!

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark


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#8 Terra Nova

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Posted 11 January 2022 - 01:43 PM

Wow, never seen one of those before! That commercial really screams 1950/60'ies USA!

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark

Yep! I was 9 pr 10 when they came out. They were advertised a lot on afternoon television during the kid shows. I never had one but I had friends that did.


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#9 steve t

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Posted 11 January 2022 - 03:11 PM

I recall a third "dome" at the Cincinatti observatory that looked loke an upside-down snow cone. Anyone knows what type of scope was in it?


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#10 Terra Nova

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Posted 11 January 2022 - 04:56 PM

I recall a third "dome" at the Cincinatti observatory that looked loke an upside-down snow cone. Anyone know what type of scope was in it?

I don’t think any scope is permanently installed in there currently. As I remember, back before the Covid really ramped up they were having to do some work on the roof in that part of the Mitchel Building.  It’s kind of in the back corner. From my understanding that was originally the location of a comet-seeker telescope, tho I don’t know any details about it or what became of it. The Mitchel building has the 11” Merz refractor. The 16” Clark refractor is in the Herget (main/big) Building. The Herget building also once housed the transit telescope for accurate time keeping and still has the meridian slit (tho it’s now covered).


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#11 Exnihilo

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Posted 11 January 2022 - 09:38 PM

Plastic gears really can work:

 

https://youtu.be/fgIm1mJCyRU

 

lol.gif

LOL, Once, when I was a kid,  I tried to make a model of the Palomar 200 inch telescope with Legos! Reminds me of that.


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#12 Leo Horishny

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Posted 12 January 2022 - 01:10 AM

It is magnificent. And aside from the two main observatory scopes there is a ‘mini museum’ of other wonderful and rare antique telescopes and other optical instruments. Restoration of the transit telescope is also in the works. Many people don’t realize just how very important the Cincinnati Observatory was to the founding and establishment of American astronomy in the 19th and early 20th century. The observatory spans an entire century really where some major contributions were made, from the 1840s to the 1940s.

Exactly. The original telescope was one of the largest in the world when it was made, the largest in the US, and to think it was once located atop Mt. Adams! Wow. I don't recall seeing or mention of the transit telescope when I was there, it certainly wasn't on display. I'm trying to remember any third building, but if so, it escapes my memory now.


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#13 Terra Nova

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Posted 12 January 2022 - 01:28 PM

At one point long ago, there was a separate third wooden building, a shed almost, that housed a small transit telescope, however the big or main (Herget) building was designed to ‘permanently’ house a transit telescope in one wing, (that’s currently used as the main lecture room (and sometimes as the dining room for special occasions like the annual Christmas party). There are old black and white photographs of that room when the transit telescope was in it. If you look at the walls and ceiling, you can see where the (now paneled over) meridian slit was. Also, it’s important to note that Mt. Lookout is the second (current) location for the Cincinnati Observatory. Prior to that (in the 19th century) it was located on Mt. Adams. That is where President John Quincy Adams inaugurated the observatory in 1843 by laying the cornerstone and where the Merz refractor was first located. Increasing light and industrial pollution in the late 19th century made that location obsolete and the observatory moved to its present Mt. Lookout location.


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#14 astrocrafter

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Posted 12 January 2022 - 06:05 PM

The Cincinnati Astronomical Association held mirror making classes in the basement of the Herget building. The giant pier of the 16" ran up the center. I made my first mirror there in 1958 and still have the scope. Dr Herget would not let any of us even see the 16" back then.

John Pratte


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#15 Terra Nova

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Posted 12 January 2022 - 08:07 PM

The Cincinnati Astronomical Association held mirror making classes in the basement of the Herget building. The giant pier of the 16" ran up the center. I made my first mirror there in 1958 and still have the scope. Dr Herget would not let any of us even see the 16" back then.

John Pratte

It seems to me that a drum or two are still there. I love the basement. A lot of cool old stuff is still there including a really old lathe.


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#16 Leo Horishny

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Posted 12 January 2022 - 08:31 PM

It seems to me that a drum or two are still there. I love the basement. A lot of cool old stuff is still there including a really old lathe.

Wow!! I may have heard of changes to the main building, say, reference to the transit telescope and remodeling after its removal, back when I was there, but I never heard of telescope making in the main building, or of the basement! Much less saw it. Bummer!


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#17 Leo Horishny

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Posted 12 January 2022 - 08:38 PM

At one point long ago, there was a separate third wooden building, a shed almost, that housed a small transit telescope, however the big or main (Herget) building was designed to ‘permanently’ house a transit telescope in one wing, (that’s currently used as the main lecture room (and sometimes as the dining room for special occasions like the annual Christmas party). There are old black and white photographs of that room when the transit telescope was in it. If you look at the walls and ceiling, you can see where the (now paneled over) meridian slit was. Also, it’s important to note that Mt. Lookout is the second (current) location for the Cincinnati Observatory. Prior to that (in the 19th century) it was located on Mt. Adams. That is where President John Quincy Adams inaugurated the observatory in 1843 by laying the cornerstone and where the Merz refractor was first located. Increasing light and industrial pollution in the late 19th century made that location obsolete and the observatory moved to its present Mt. Lookout location.

I am sorry there weren't enough staff and energy at that time, but it would have been nice to share with volunteers, more of the footprint of the observatory and the grounds. They did do a good job in succinctly describing the heritage of the facility.

I understand when we were there, in general when you went there, it was in early evening and the focus was mostly on observing sessions. Not trying to nitpick, staff there when I was there were very nice and supportive of volunteers and my kids, who still live in Cincy have volunteered there and taken their kids to observatory programs over the years.


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