HISTORY OF THE OBSERVATORY

 

Part 4 - Full Circle

 

This sorry state of affairs continued until 2011.  While the telescope had been collecting
dust and rust, the management structure at Charterhouse had changed and the centre
was now part of the Somerset Outdoor and Residential Learning Service.
 
The (then) director of the Charterhouse Centre, Ian Head, knew that Adrian Dening was a
keen astronomer who regularly ran science courses at Kilve Court.  An approach was made
and Adrian agreed to take responsibility for nursing the telescope back to health again.
 
 
Following the eviction of several colonies of spiders, an inspection of the primary mirror
revealed that although its condition was not perfect, the mirror was still useable.
A careful wash with Isopropyl Alcohol and distilled water removed a thick layer of dirt
and the optical path was re-collimated.
 
 
 
Note the red laser of the collimator shining through the mirror
 
 
AWR Technology were asked to update the drive system software to provide a modern
"GoTo" capability with the ability to control the telescope via Stellarium software.
 
 
 
The drive control box and power supply mounted on the pillar
with a simple handset to take up the steps when necessary
 
 
Adrian ran the first astronomy evening in March 2012 and this was well-supported by
thirty five guests, many of whom had been patiently waiting years for the observatory to
re-open its doors.  Several further evenings have since been run under the
"Stars Over Somerset" banner and prove to be extremely popular.
 
 
With the observatory being used more regularly, a few minor headaches appeared.
The first one almost caused a major headache literally as while closing the dome roof after
one session, a pulley ripped itself off its mounting and flew across the dome at high speed.
 
 
The pulley had been mounted on the sliding roof panel using a piece of plywood that over the
years had become a bit rotten !  A new piece of Oak sorted the issue.
 
 
 
Going by the number of holes in the Aluminium, this was NOT
the first time it had happened !
 
 
As the roof panel opened, the return wires ran through guide channels made from similarly
rotten wood and aged brittle plastic electrical conduit.  Care had to be taken that the wires
 stayed in their channels - not a safety issue, but it meant that they could cut across the top
of the dome at an angle and interfere with the telescope's movement at high altitudes.
 
 
 
The routing of the wires became more critical as with use, bits of conduit started to break off
 
 
 
New Aluminium conduit has provided a permanent solution
 
 
No mention has been made of the 6 inch reflector telescope mounted on the side of the
main tube.  Fullerscopes originally described it as a finderscope, but the reflector is
 perfectly adequate in its own right for observing and astro-imaging........or at least
  it would be if there was any coating at all left on the mirror !
 
 
 
We planned to restore the 6 inch reflector later

 

During summer 2013, we received a surprise telephone call from Steve Collingwood
at Telescope House, offering to undertake a complete restoration 
of the 6" reflector free of charge!
 
With the 6" telescope removed, the main Fullerscope was a little front heavy and it
would have to remain out of commission until everything was put back together.
 
We decided that it would be an ideal opportunity to have the main Fullerscope mirrors
re-coated, so back to the observatory again and the mirrors were sent to
Terry Pearce of Vacuum Coatings Ltd. in Walthamstow.
 
October saw a team of us re-installing the mirrors and 6" reflector.
 
Adrian and Chris were assisted by Mark Woodland who is a keen local astronomer
and Natasha Dennington, a student from Yeovil who has just been accepted
 by Manchester University to start her astro engineering degree.

 

   
Adrian un-wrapping the main mirror Mark preparing the mirror mounting
   
   
   
Chris checks everything will still fit Natasha working on the mirror supports
   
   
   
Adrian looking every so slightly pleased Re-installing the 6" reflector - there's nothing
with the new mirror for the 6" like carefully watching what you are doing !

 

Then disaster struck.............
 
We wanted to test everything out and it was a beautiful clear night.........
 
Remember the extremely hot and dry summer of 2013..........
 
Well while the telescope had been out of action, the AWR drive system
had managed to die on us - turned out to be a problem with damp !!

 

 
The AWR uStep control box being dried out on Adrian's workbench back home

 

The final part of this story really completes a full circle.......... 
 
 
Autumn 2013 was the 40th anniversary of the observatory being opened for business.
 
At the same time, a new group was formed in the area - the Wells and Mendip Astronomers - almost
  thirty years to the day since the demise of the original Mendip Astronomers group that
 played such a key role in the early days of the observatory.
 
 
Or in other words, it took forty years to get back to exactly where we were in 1973 !!

 

 
Ready to be put to work for some serious observing

 

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

 

 

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