Birchardville Observatory
Site Always Under Development

Astronomy and
Telescope Building

Back to the Navy (again)... while on duty in a shipyard setting, there's often nothing to be done except be available and awake. I found this a great time to learn about shipboard navigation -- charts, compasses, and all that, and celestial navigation as well.

I was actually paid for this skill while working on the missile tracking ships, and became quite proficient with (early 1960s) navigation tools like computers, star trackers, Transit satellites, and so on. Interesting enough, if it was clear, the traditional marine sextant worked about as quickly as the high tech solutions!

Fast Forward to the late 1990s -- we live out in the country with (relatively) little light pollution, and the sky can be awesome. Interest rekindles and we acquired a small telescope (Orion Short-tube 80, an F/5 scope nice for watching the deer, birds, bears and (oh, yes) the sky.

In the process, itches began that I was told could only be cured by some mysterious elixer called "aperture". I started dreaming, thinking, designing (and checking out things like the UseNet group (available as Google Groups) "sci.astro.amateur" and similar resources. I found a ten inch F/4 mirror, and began acquiring things like mirror cells, focusers, spiders and diagonals, and a bunch of plywood from Estonia or somewhere nearby.

Today that pile of stuff is a fairly squat 10" F/4 Dobsonian telescope with traditional problems (it's an altitude/azimuth design that tracks stars with the help of nudges from the user.

But wait, there's more... "Equatorial Platforms" can provide a base on which the telescope sits which slowly rotates at the same rate as the earth turns, providing that star tracking feature that was lacking.

Here's a .pdf file that helps put us, the Earth, the solar system, the Sun and other stars in perspective. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader or a similar program to read it. astroperspectivebilingual.pdf

More to come later.

Visiting Bletchley Park, home of the WW-II Allied codebreaking establishment
Contact Info:
Name:Dan Janda