HISTORY OF THE OBSERVATORY

 

Part 3 - The Millennium Dome

 

The telescope optics were now in good shape and the optical tube assembly looked very smart
in its fresh paint, but annoyingly there was still one major issue preventing its use.
 
The original motor drives had not endured twenty five years of Mendip weather too well.
They were also suffering from lack of maintenance.
 
 
 
The original Declination drive The original Right Ascension drive
 
 
The control for the drives was a simple affair with manual direction buttons and the selection of
sidereal rate for tracking or faster "slewing" speeds being derived from an adjustable clock.
 
 
 
Extract from the original user guide that explains how the drive system works
 
 
As the new Millennium began, Charterhouse sought the advice of Beacon Hill Telescopes
in Cleethorpes.  Beacon Hill recommended the installation of new drive gears and stepper
motors, controlled by an intelligent drive system from AWR Technology.  A faded fax
in the Charterhouse archives indicates a cost of 880 for the work.
 
 
This part of the restoration project moved slowly.  AWR Technology supplied
their components direct to Beacon Hill in April 2002 and we assume that Beacon Hill
subsequently visited Charterhouse to install everything during the summer of 2002.
 
 
 
 
 
The new Declination drive The new Right Ascension drive
 
 
Ever since the observatory had first been used, everyone complained that the dome
itself was incredibly difficult to turn and it did have issues with weatherproofing.
John Baker had obtained quotations for a complete replacement being built from GRP
rather than Aluminium, but the cost was prohibitive and the idea was scrapped.
 
The dome sat on six large plastic rollers that rotated on a steel track, bolted around
the top of the wall.  In time, these rollers had gradually cut into the track and a
couple had worn completely through.  Beacon Hill recommended replacing these and
a new series of twelve rollers were installed that sat on the concrete top of the
wall, running around the outside of the original steel track.
 
 
 
Original wheel sat on the track when the After 25 years of rotating, the track had
observatory was first built completely cut through the plastic !
 
 
 
A simple solution - the wheel cannot fall off the wall because if it moves outwards,
its counterpart on the opposite side of the dome moves inwards and presses against
the track - the weight of the dome is also shared between more wheels than before
 
 
While all this work was being done, the popular astronomy courses were re-established, 
relying on the portable Celestron telescope for observational work:
 
  September 2000 11 People  
  October 2000 16 People  
  November 2000 Unknown  
  January 2001 19 People  
  February 2001 22 People  
 
 
Charterhouse even designed some jazzy new advertising for the courses !
 
 
 
 
With the new drive system from AWR Technology up and running, a grand re-launch of the
observatory was planned and the event was attended by over fifty guests including
representatives from Somerset County Council, the various District Councils and other
local organisations.
 
 
 
A brass plaque on the outside wall of the observatory records the event.
 
 
No sooner had the celebrations died-down, when Chris Sperring announced that he would 
sadly be unable to continue running astronomy courses due to his work commitments 
with the Hawk and Owl Trust.  Around this time, the requirement for anyone attending
the Charterhouse Centre to have a current Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check became
compulsory which meant that it would be impossible to have loads of amateur astronomers
wandering around the place while youngsters were using the Centre's other facilities.
 
 
To cut a long story short, the observatory quickly fell in to disuse again and with nobody
to look after it since the departure of Chris Sperring, it's condition deteriorated rapidly !

 

Part 1 -  Early Days
   
Part 2 -  The 1990s
   
Part 3 -  The Millennium Dome
   
Part 4 -  Full Circle

 

 

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