Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Birth of a Telescope

Hey Space Placers!

Sorry for the lack of blogs the past few days - the supporting website was down for awhile and I have been very busy with work and watching the birth of a new telescope.

Telescopes are magical in that they are comprised of metal and glass manufactered and assembled in such a way as to open a window to the Universe for those who use it. When a new telescope gathers light from an astronomical object for the first time it is an event called "First Light".

George Mason University (GMU) Department of Astronomy and Physics is in the process creating a new 32-inch telescope at its Fairfax Campus. The new observatory will be, I believe, the largest on campus telescope anywhere. I am still researching this potential landmark.

A big step forward in the process occurred yesterday, Saturday May 14th, when the major mechanical components of the telescope were delivered by the manufacterer and moved by a huge crane into the observatory dome. The 10+ hour event involved about a dozen workers and volunteers (including myself).

The 1200 pound telescope pedestal, the fork mount, polar axis and telescope tube were lifted by crane from the street and into the observatory dome. Once inside the dome the assembling of the major components occurred.

The primary and secondary mirrors are already at GMU as are their holders, the focuser, drive electronics and instrumentation. It will take more time to assemble and test these components, but the moment of First Light is getting closer.

Once the telescope reaches First Light and enters operation it will be a precious asset to GMU and the region. Countless students will use the telescope to start their science careers while the public will get to see the Universe through a research grade telescope.

The sky is literally the limit for the life of this telescope. It is not every day you get to witness the creation of a 32-inch telescope in your back yard - it is probably a once in a lifetime occurance.

I will post some pictures soon and keep you advised of developments as they occur.

Sky Guy in VA

No comments:

Post a Comment