OT - Making your own Optical Instruments/Telescopes

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If anyone is wondering, this is going in under the Technology category.

It struck me a minute ago that many of the folks who post here do a good bit of hand work. If you can build a half decent cabinet or even an outhouse, you can build yourself a telescope. Hey, I had cobbled up a scope or two by the time I was 15 - though I admit I used a bunch of old lenses I had laying around. I have ground and polished mirrors at a later age - it really isn't a hard job - just particular.

I was going to write up the whole thing from memory - but I found so much information available that I decided to just post links. Email me if you need a bit more advice.

The telescope that took over the amateur world - the Dobsonian

http://tie.jpl.nasa.gov/tie/dobson/index.html http://members.aol.com/sfsidewalk/dobplans.htm http://www.arrowweb.com/M1/atm/

The ATM FAQ http://www.netacc.net/~poulsen/atm-faq.htm

A good looking page on telescope making - a bit advanced for most beginners though.


One of the oldest amateur astronomy groups in existence - don't miss their images page.


This link is for sunspot lovers. http://america.net/~boo/html/sun_gun.html

This is just a minor sampling of what is available or has been built by amateur astronomers. There are plans out there for building speciality telescopes for observing the suns corona, for observing solar flares - and lots more. Russell Porter's books - Amateur Telescope Making I, II and III - have directions for making most of them. And those books are nearly a century old!

-- Paul Davis (davisp1953@yahoo.com), June 29, 1999


Paul...you never cease to amaze me : )

Thanks, I'd like to do this as a project with my son.

Mike ====================================================================

-- Michael Taylor (mtdesign3@aol.com), June 29, 1999.

Mr. Davis, My wife bought me a 70mm Orion telescope for christmas. About the only thing I can find with it is the moon. I would like to be able to find the planets, nebulas etc. What is the easiest ways for an amature to easily find these.

-- John (...@...), June 29, 1999.

Quickest way for a new amateur to find various objects is to get a copy of Astronomy or Sky and Telescope and follow their monthly star chart. 'The Backyard Astronomer' is a fairly cool show on PBS that shows where various objects are located and gives times of interesting celestial events, such as meteor showers, comets and so forth. Check for your local viewing times. After a few weeks of trying, the sky becomes very well known.

Some years back I was showing the constellations to my nephew (now a programmer at SUN). When we got to Cygnus, I went from the beak of the swan to the tail, and got stuck. Went back from the beak to the wings to the tail - and told him there must have been a nova explosion as there was a star just off the tail that had never been there before. Went in and checked the TV news - I was right. That is how well the night sky becomes known to you after a few years of staring at it.

I am also the only living person who has been accused of making an A0 type star flare - but that is another story entirely, and pretty silly.

-- Paul Davis (davisp1953@yahoo.com), June 29, 1999.

Well, Paul, nice to meet you--I'm an amateur telescope maker, too. Hand-ground a 6" mirror and made a Newtonian when I was in high school. It wasn't hard, just time-consuming. I think I used a book by Sam? Brown that may be still in print? (There's also "How to Make a Telescope" by Jean Texereau, that's been around since the 50's.) I also used a mirror-grinding kit, all glass and grits included, that I mail-ordered from the back of an astronomy magazine. I think it ran all of $75.

Astronomy is a fascinating hobby that, when you come right down to it, doesn't require any equipment other than your eyes and a clear patch of sky. A good pair of binoculars is the next step up. A telescope is a wonderful addition for anyone who wants to keep looking up.

Talk on this bb has sparked interest in meteor showers, solar flares, sunspots, etc. For those just getting their astronomical feet wet, I'd suggest eigher "Astronomy" magazine or "Sky and Telescope" magazine (highlights available online @ www.skypub.com).

Making the telescope was one of the high points of my youth. Telescopes have gotten very sophisticated since then, but my old polished mirror, cardboard tube, and plywood legs suit me just fine.

Sorry if this is slightly OT. Not every day you come across another telescope maker on a y2k site, though! Oh--did I mention I'm female, and not at all handy in the woodshop? If I could make a telescope, anyone can!

-- Always (Out Looking@The Sky.Too), June 29, 1999.

Well, as a matter of fact, YOU are pretty silly. Your whole post of this topic (even though you identify it as "OT") is pretty silly. Why don't you post it over at BFI, maybe CPR can build one and find Uranus. (Your Anus, get it? Moronic, pathetic troll.)

-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.com), June 29, 1999.

Always- My previous post was (obviously) meant for Paul Davis. Just wanted to make sure!

By the way, do you mudwrestle?

-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.com), June 29, 1999.

John--try the books "365 Starry Nights" by Chet Rayno, or "Turn Left At Orion" by Dan Davis.

This is not completely OT if you consider how many times the Leonid meteor shower, the solar flares, and other strange sky happenings have been discussed on this board. Some people may be interested in learning more about the sky now. I have been following the solar "weather forecast" since many good solar info URLs were mentioned the other day. Thanks to whoever posted those.

-- Always (Out Looking @The Sky.Too), June 29, 1999.

Thanks Paul and others for an informative post.

From one who has HAD to navigate by the stars to get his (mostly useless)butt back to civilization, I will be the first to SHOUT that this topic and information belongs on this board and IMNTHO is not even off topic.

Competencey in taking care of yourself may be THE survival issue in the future. Any learning which furthers that cause is, it seems to me, appropriate for this board.


-- Got a compass?

-- Greybear (greybear@home.com), June 29, 1999.

Graybear, I know a married team of professional astronomers in Bowling Green, Ky. (their speciality is quasistellar objects, if you were wondering) They got lost in Washington, DC some years ago, and navigated back to their hotel by spotting Jupiter and knowing where it was in the sky at that time of night! LOL Any knowledge is useful if you happen to need it.

I should add that most medium to large size cities have astronomy clubs - they are a wonderful way to learn your way around the skies.

-- Paul Davis (davisp1953@yahoo.com), June 29, 1999.

In addition to fundamental orientation via Polaris, I used to, when outdoors a lot a night, be able to tell time fairly accurately via Ursa Major. Sadly I only know about 5-6 constellations and don't live near a large city.

-Greybear, who need to make a trip to the bookstore.

-- Got (a mechanical) watch?

-- Greybear (greybear@home.com), June 29, 1999.


Perhaps there is an astronomy club closer to you than the nearest large city. Check Sky and Telescope -- Astro Directory at http://www.skypub.com/resources/directory/directory.shtml

-- No Spam Please (nos_pam_please@hotmail.com), June 30, 1999.

I would have to concur with no_spam_please - locate an astronomy club near you and visit one of their star parties. Most clubs sponsor public star parties on a periodic basis. Generally, astronomers are a friendly lot - find out where they hang out (if public access is possible) and ask (polite) questions.

Sky and Telescope has a good list of clubs, as does http://www.seds.org/TAC/

-- irregular darkenss (astronomers_do_it@night.lol), June 30, 1999.

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