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Watson Telescope Restoration

Side Note: As of 2018, the Watson telescope is not longer used in the observatory. The observatory committee is looking into construction of a case so it can be displayed inside the observatory. However, for now the Watson telescope is in storage, but its steel pier lives on in use with the new "Illig" telescope.

As described in HAL's history, our organization was entrusted with a telescope from the estate of Paul S. Watson, long-time curator of astronomy at the Maryland Academy of Sciences. The "Watson telescope" was built in 1937 by Joseph Woods, who owned a machine shop in Baltimore and fabricated the mounts, drives, tubes, etc. for two identical scopes. Woods kept one and Watson got the other. For both of them, they modified a silo dome with a slit to house the telescopes. The optics came from The Fecker Company in Pittsburgh. This telescope was the primary instrument used by Paul Watson for many years and was located on his property overlooking the Magothy River in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.

The Watson telescope is a 12-inch, F6.0 Newtonian on a German equatorial mount. Although the optical and mechanical configuration of the telescope is not unusual, its unique construction makes it one of a kind. Its mechanical and optical components were machined to the most precise level of accuracy. The amazing craftsmanship and attention to detail surpasses the capabilities of most modern mass produced telecopes.

The telescope was constructed by Jospeph Woods entirely of custom-machined pieces. As a professional instrument, its optical and mechanical accuracy rivaled the best telescopes of its day. To bring this telescope completely up to modern standards, the orignal mechanical "clock drive" was replaced with an electronic tracking mechanism. However, the original clock drive was an amazing device for its day. For more information on that device click here.

Optical accuracy also rivals the best current telescopes. Optical testing in 2005 revealed the 12-inch primary mirror to be accurate to within 1/12th the width of a wave of light.

Photos of Paul Watson's Original Home for the 12" Telescope near the Magothy River

Click thumbnails for full sized photos

Photos of the Watson Scope Before Restoration

The photos below show the initially removal of the scope from the Watson dome and its disassembly.

Watson Restoration Photos Step-by-Step

In its original home the telescope was covered by black paint, in an effort to minimize reflections of stray light. Unfortunately, this masked its many beautiful surfaces, including extensive brass, and even some copper. After the telescope was disassembled in 1988, BAS members removed the black paint from the individual pieces and painted all non-brass surfaces a light blue. In 2005, HAL members completed the restoration process and reassembled the telescope.

July 23, 2005 Session

August 20, 2005 Session

November 20, 2005 Session

March 2011 - Company Seven Motorized Drive Installation and Refurb

Many thanks and mega-kudos to Marty and team at Company Seven for performing the tasks listed below so that we are ready to mount the Watson Telescope as soon as the observatory construction is completed. (Photos below text.).

- Full cleaning, repairing, and refurbishing of the mount
- Lap and adjust drive gears
- Repair broken tooth on main drive gear
- Repair right ascension tangent arm assembly
- Remove, replace, and repair non-operational hand knobs and shafts
- Provide 120v AC powered synchronous drive system to provide object tracking
- Motor can accept an optional third party Drive Corrector to modify the tracking rate (for Solar, etc.)

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Last modified: June 15, 2019 @ 11:20 EST