Restored Victorian Telescope Returns to Armagh Observatory

The Calver Newtonian telescope being reinstalled in its new dome on 31 May 2005
(Image credit John Butler).

The restored Calver Newtonian telescope after initial installation
(Image credit Miruna Popescu).

The 120-year-old Calver reflecting telescope, which has been located at the Armagh Observatory since 1919, has recently returned after restoration at Tyne and Wear, England.

The Newtonian telescope, with a main mirror a little over 18 inches diameter, was originally constructed in 1883 by the well-known English telescope-maker George Calver. It was bought for £800 by an affluent amateur astronomer, Colonel Tupman of Harrow and was later sold to John Pierce of Wexford Engineering Works for £200. It subsequently passed into the hands of Revd William F.A. Ellison, who was appointed Director of the Armagh Observatory in September 1918, and who duly presented the telescope as a gift to the Observatory the following January.

Revd Ellison, himself an accomplished telescope maker, gave the concave main mirror a more accurate figure before erecting it in Armagh as the largest operational telescope in Ireland. He employed the telescope for lunar eclipse photography, for planetary work - especially a series of drawings of Mars at its November 1926 opposition, and for taking spectra of stars, in particular the nova in Hercules (DQ Her discovered by Manning Prentice of the British Astronomical Association in December 1934).

A Royal Society grant was received around 1948 to convert the Calver telescope into a wide-angle Schmidt photographic telescope. The optical parts, including a 12-inch corrector lens, were made by the firm of Cox, Hargreaves and Thompson and arrived in June 1950. The new 18/12-inch Schmidt camera was erected later that year. The telescope was used in this new form to obtain photographs for variable star and stellar distribution research programmes and for successful comet photography.

The current restoration of the telescope to its original Newtonian design was made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and was carried out by the Sinden Optical Company Ltd, Tyne and Wear. This grant also provided for a new dome to house the telescope.

See also:
More images
Telescope and Domes Restoration Project
Ellison and the Calver Telescope - Patrick Moore's History
Biography of George Calver

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John McFarland or John Butler at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; jmfat signarm.ac.uk; cjbarm.ac.uk

Last Revised: 2010 February 23rd