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I built this old telescope as a boy, what must be about fifty years ago. I found this old photo of the telescope, with me, in my parent's back garden in Wokingham, but all traces of the metalwork, including it's aluminium tube, and steel mount, built by my dad, have long since vanished. However, it has now been rebuilt again ! :-)
It was only recently, when my local friend Richard invited me to a talk on telescopes, that I decided to rescue what bits remained, and had been covered by leaves and mud in our back garden. These included the a large plastic tube, about 25cm (10") diameter, and the optical bits, including the 8.5" diameter mirror of 56" focal length.
I fondly remember the hours of making this main mirror in the shed at the end of my parent's garden, after getting out a book on "how to build a telescope" from the local library, and buying materials, including two large bits of glass, grades of grinding grit, polishing rouge, and pitch. Endless hours of walking around a pole, in the middle of the shed floor, grinding then polishing the final paraboidal shape - aided by an optical tester made from a small light bulb, silver paper with pin-hole, and razor blade on a little jig to measure movement. Most of all, I remember the first test as a telescope, before the mirror was sent away to be "silvered": just the plain glass propped against the wall, with the moon behind me, and holding my old microscope eyepiece to my eye. I was amazed to see all those craters and mountains !
Here on the left, is the main mirror, after washing off the mud, and a night outside, explored by a little snail ! Much of the aluminised surface has flaked off or stained, but that first test in the 1960s meant I was confident that the telescope would work. The small diagonal mirror, near the top of the tube, used to bring the light out to the eyepiece, was in a far worse state, including being chipped. I ordered another (2" diameter minor axis) from China, which has arrived, but the telescope was already working better than I remember from when it was built.
Most of the work has been the rebuilding, from scratch, of a suitably solid stand and equatorial mount - see right. Bits used include our old cast-iron garden umbrella stand, a sloping base made from lots of wood, glued and nailed together, two old wheel bearings, from my mate Gary, clamped via exhaust brackets, to some chunky L-section we had - plus LOTS of carefully chosen bits of scrap metal and plastic tube - one "adjusted" with friend Roy's lathe. Yes! that IS a sledge hammer, used as a counter-weight. This was donated by Jack, my 95 year old father-in-law, who says he was given it, with a broken handle, back in the 1950s. It took me ages to extract the wooden handle - and I gave him that back :-)
I was surprised and delighted to see the telescope work even better that I remembered from the 1960s. I think it is working better, despite the damage to the mirrors, because I have done a better job of "lining-up" (colimating) the optics - aided by a little washer to mark the exact centre of the main mirror.
Photographs never seemed to show as much detail as the naked eye, but check out that picture of the moon below. I saw even more detail with my eye ! Maybe I will get better results in the coming days, now the new diagonal mirror from China has been fitted.
I always remember seeing the disk of Jupiter and it's four moons - but now I can clearly see the bands of cloud across Jupiter. The poor photo on the right shows the difference between the camera and what I saw with my naked eye. You may JUST make out two of the moons, in lower left and top right corners. It looks as if the camera exposure needed adjustment, but time will tell.
The first picture below was taken using the new diagonal mirror. It was not easy to keep the telescope steady in the wind, and catch the moon in the gaps between clouds - but it was worth it. Other pictures follow it, including that taken with the original chipped and stained diagonal mirror.
I hope to add better pictures here in the coming days, including of Jupiter and Saturn.
Enlargement of the moon taken on 8th May 2014 with new diagonal mirror.
First picture of moon - but with original, damaged diagonal mirror.
The moon taken on 8th May 2014 with new diagonal mirror.
snap of a comet over Sunninghill taken a few years ago - and for camera men : 200 ASA colour print film, 50 mm lens at f1.8, open for about 60 seconds.
Added in October 2016: My lousy woodwork did not stand up to the weather, and it fell apart. It's still like this. Anybody into metalwork ? :-)
Night of the Orionid Meteor Shower on Sunday 23 October 2016: This picture is parked here, until replaced with anything found useful in Robin's few hours of night sky video, recorded on a wide angle Mobius camera. The shower was certainly not in the same league as our young family watched many years ago, laying on our backs, in the field we kept our caravan, near Dorchester. Even with light polution, in Sunninghill, we can see, and photograph the stars well, and even a comet. If a shooting star was visible to the naked eye, our video camera should have caught it. I'm sure it caught the passing aircraft ! Looking at the video will need to wait until more important "work" is done. June and Robin got little sleep in the 24 hours of Sunday. Strange as it may seem, we enjoyed our visit to Tolworth, particularly talking to the people we met in Tolworth Hospital. The patients we saw will recognise the significance of many of these images gathered here, from elsewhere on my web pages. Anyone in contact with me by email, can be pointed to the relevant pages, if I know who they are. I'll give a clue on one connection: the patient knew my workmate at EASAMS who died mysteriously, almost 30 years ago. Cabinet Papers to be released in 2017 may reveal the truth. For most of us, including a large numbers of my friends here in UK and overseas, good health treatment is our main concern. I'll change this when we have somewhere better to park it, and after someone (else?) has trawled through my three hours of night sky video ! :-)