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The Observa-Dome under construction in the workshop of Observa-Dome Laboratories, Inc. in Jackson, Mississippi, USA.

The new 6-metre diameter Observa-Dome, which will house the restored historic Calver telescope at the Armagh Observatory, arrived in Belfast today from the United States. This dome is a key element of the telescope domes restoration project currently being carried out at Armagh Observatory with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL).

Revd William Ellison The Revd William Ellison, the sixth Director of the Armagh Observatory, donated the original late nineteenth century telescope to the Observatory on his appointment in 1918. This was an 18-inch Newtonian reflector, made by the famous English telescope maker George Calver of Yarmouth and later Widford near Chelmsford, and was for many years one of the largest telescopes in Ireland. During the 1920s and 1930s, Ellison and others used the telescope for observations of the planets and for taking spectral images of the stars, using a spectroscope to split the starlight into its constituent colours

The telescope was converted to a 12/18-inch Schmidt design in the middle of the twentieth century, so that a much larger area of the sky could be photographed in a single exposure. The field covered was about 3.2 degrees in diameter, or more than six times the diameter of the Moon. In this form, the telescope was used from 1950 to 1986 to photograph comets (notably Comet Arend-Roland in 1957 and Comet Halley in 1986), variable-star fields, and general star fields lying near the Galactic pole.

The Calver telescope as converted to a Schmidt camera.

The HLF-funded conservation programme will convert this telescope back to its original Calver Newtonian form and house it in the new dome that has just arrived from the USA. The restored telescope will be used for observations of planets, comets and asteroids, and for timing events such as occultations, eclipses, and transits of various bodies in the solar system. Such data have important applications to determining the positions and orbits of solar system objects.

Growing light pollution in and around Armagh means that observing conditions in the City have deteriorated substantially since the 1920s. However, Armagh City and District Council has been foremost in promoting policies to protect the environment and to reduce the energy waste, sky glow and glare associated with poor external lighting. It is hoped that the restored Calver telescope will be used for many years, so illustrating not just the strong heritage of astronomy at Armagh but also its bright future.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John McFarland at Armagh Observatory, Tel: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; jmf@arm.ac.uk; Web-Site: http://star.arm.ac.uk/

See also:

Telescope and Dome Restoration Project

Project Progress Reports in Pictures

Armagh Schmidt Telescope

10 inch Grubb Refractor

History of Armagh Observatory

Last Revised: 2003 June 20th
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