Telescope Restoration

10″ Clark Refractor Telescope, Bucknell University

During the summer of 2009, I was hired by a professor at Swarthmore to assist in the restoration and renovation of the 10″ Clark Refractor telescope at Bucknell University. The telescope was built in 1887 by Alvan Clark and Sons of Cambridgeport, MA, and had been in almost continuous use by Bucknell students and faculty since. Although still a valuable scientific instrument, it was showing its age: it was in rough physical condition, and its control hardware was antiquated. We were hired to perform a complete physical teardown and restoration of the telescope, as well as to implement computer control of both the telescope and the dome.

The majority of our work focused on completely disassembling the telescope and cleaning/stripping and refinishing each component. Because of the telescope’s age and historical value, we tried to keep as many original components as possible, preferring to repair rather than rebuild whenever possible. Simultaneously, we designed and built computer-controlled motor drive systems for the declination and polar axes. In addition to assisting with the construction and implementation of the motor drives (dec axis drive in photo 7), I was responsible for finite element analysis and fabrication of the polar axis clutch system that we designed to allow rapid manual slewing of the scope about the polar axis (clutch plate in photo 10, clutch clamps in photos 8 and 9). I was also responsible for setting up and calibrating the computer control system (a combination of Software Bisque’s TheSky6 and Astrometric Instruments’ Sky Walker and Dome Pro).

We reassembled the majority of the telescope at Bucknell in late August of 2009, but continued to work on alignment and debugging until January 2010. Finally, in late January, we were able to go up and look through the scope. It was an unbelievable view, and the scope worked perfectly: with just a click on a star in the control software, the scope and dome slewed in perfect coordination to point at it. Today, the telescope remains in use at Bucknell, for both teaching and research.

For more information on this project, please contact me.

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