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June 2013

March 2013

Aging telescope hopes for a fresh start

Percival_Lowell_observing_Venus_from_the_Lowell_Observatory_in_1910The Clark Telescope at Lowell Oberservatory is, at 117 years old, over the Mars Hill, so to speak.

It needs an overhaul, say the folks over there. So they're trying to raise $256,718. (Does that number also strike you as awfully specific?)

Here's what the Clark needs, according to them:

During the past several years, the telescope has become more and more difficult to move, due to the degradation of the main support bearings in the optical tube. If this problem continues, the telescope will become inoperable. To avoid this outcome, we will remove (using a crane) and dismantle the optical tube and replace faulty parts, most of which will be fabricated in-house.

We will also clean all components, including the primary lens, optical tube, and main pier. If necessary, we will strip and recoat the pier.   

Old wiring is a major safety issue with the dome, recently resulting in sparking and arcing. We will thus replace all existing wiring, as well as switch gear and load center.

We will also replace the shutter doors, which no longer operate properly on a regular basis (leaving us with no other option on some nights but to shut down the facility). Additionally, we will repair metal siding, particularly in areas where snow and rain enter the dome, and refinish the floor.  

Fig_clarkThis place -- and, in particular, this telescope and dome -- is one of my favorite in America, and it earned a big entry in our e-guidebook, A Traveler's Guide to Astronomy and Space in the Southwest. (It's possibly the biggest entry; I'd have to check.) The geek in me is begging to go there to see the work in progress, which will involve disassembling the historic 'scope.

Too bad the firm Alvan Clark & Sons isn't around any more to help.

(Image above: Percival Lowell, the observatory's founder, looks through the Clark Telescope. Image below: The Clark Telescope, as photographed by us in 2002. Second photo added 3/20/2013.)