Having been back in my hometown a few months after returning from the state of Delaware, I have not yet unpacked many boxes that fill my basement. I’ve been searching for the print outs from my earlier computer research for the book: Unraveling the Christmas Star Mystery. I’ve located a few, and am enjoying rereading them. I’ve found the names of some of the astronomers who created the NASA astronomy computer programs. I’m going to try to locate them using the Internet and correspond with them. I hope they’re still available.
I have so enjoyed astronomy throughout my life, beginning with my first astronomy professor at Hiram College. Dr. Clark taught us how to use the Warner and Swasey telescope pictured to the left. The photo was taken by James Guilford. The telescope has been updated and still has a beautifully crafted nine-inch objective lens. The focal length is 131-inches. I have included one of the architect’s drawings for the housing facility. After experiencing that telescope almost nightly my senior year in college, I learned the importance of the clock drive.
The clock drive enabled observers to keep the telescope on target while the Earth rotated. It would move the telescope at the correct speed. At my home latitude, the Earth is rotating over 600-miles per hour. At one moves toward the geographic North Pole, the speed of Earth’s rotation diminishes. After using the Hiram College telescope, I found it frustrating to use an amateur telescope. In an amateur telescope, the object being viewed moves across the eyepiece rapidly. An observer has to keep moving the telescope to keep the object in view. I became proficient at the task, but the presence of a working clock drive makes it SO much easier to observe the celestial objects.
Astronomy students were assigned to open and man the observatory for the public viewings. We had to clock in and out as part of our class requirements in addition to fulfilling the viewing assignments. I loved to use the telescope. To give you an idea of the magnification, Mars looked as large as a nickel through the eyepiece. Compared to a miniscule dot in the sky resembling a star, the magnification enabled me to easily see the pole and markings. I was thrilled to see the rings of Saturn and the smaller moons of Jupiter so clearly.
Of course I prefer the reflecting telescope when using a scope without a clock drive, for it is easier to keep positioning. I have been very fortunate in my life to have access to many different telescopes, many with clock drives. While teaching at West Muskingum High School, a beautiful reflecting telescope was donated to the science department by a Zanesville resident updating their equipment. What an honor to receive it and use it. Of course my students loved the telescope. They used it in class to learn to manipulate the scope to zoom in on a target across the hills. That made it easier to use at night with the stars, Moon and planets. The Hiram College observatory is still used for class and public viewings.