Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Renting the 60" Mt. Wilson reflector telescope!

My club the High Desert Astronomical Society is confirmed for a night of observing at the 60" reflector up on top of Mt. Wilson. The outing is scheduled for April. This is going to be an awesome experience and I can hardly wait to go. Here is a little bit of the history of the telescope.The 60-inch reflector at Mount Wilson was constructed in 1908. Hale used the 60-inch glass blank that his father purchased for him in 1896. George Ritchey finished the glass blank into a mirror of the proper size in the Mount Wilson optical shops in Pasadena, California. Ritchey also designed the tube and mounting for the telescope, which were built by the Union Iron Works in San Francisco. The design drew heavily on experience gained with the use of the 36-inch Crossley reflector at the Lick Observatory.The telescope is supported by a 15-foot tube, which contains eight separate steel tubes and cross-braces designed to provide a stiffer truss and support system than was originally found in the Crossley reflector. The mirror is supported by a system of levers in a steel housing attached to the bottom of the tube and is fork-mounted on the polar axis. Just below the fork is a 10-foot diameter mercury float-bearing system designed to carry the weight of the telescope. The telescope is moved with electric motors. The 58-foot dome of the telescope is built from steel, on a concrete foundation, with double walls for the free circulation of air. This design is necessary to minimize temperature variations which could alter the shape of the mirror.Hale designed the optical system of the 60-inch reflector so that the instrument could be used for a variety of purposes. As a Newtonian telescope it was an f/5 instrument for photography and low-dispersion spectroscopy. In a modified Cassegrain configuration, using a convex hyperboloidal mirror before the prime focus and a plane mirror at the lower end of the tube to reflect light to the side of the tube, it could be used at f/16 for spectrography and an f/20 for photography. Finally, as an f/30 Coude, light was reflected by an appropriately geared mirror through the hollow polar axis into a constant-temperature room housing a large spectrograph. This flexible optical system, which allowed the telescope to be used for photographic and spectrographic purposes, was a model for future large reflectors. After the trip I will write a blog and post photos of the trip. Now maybe we will do the same thing at the Mt. Palomar Observatory next year!

1 comment:

  1. What an incredible opportunity! Last year I got to go to Yerkes - these places are astronomy hollowed ground! Hope you and your group have a blast!