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The World Wide Web has a wealth of information for the beginning stargazer, the avid astronomy hobbyist, or the serious astronomer. If you have an interest in building your own telescope, you can find several sources on the Web.
• If you're looking to build your own telescope, you'll find complete drawings, a materials list, and explanations on various sites that guide you through the process of building your own telescope.
• Want to build your telescope and its accessories? Astronomy Boy will give detailed instructions to make your own telescope eyepieces out of wood and aluminum tubing.
• There are also many astronomy chat rooms and message boards online where you can lurk or talk to other astronomers about new products and building your own telescaope.
The Yolo telescope is an unobstructed reflecting telescope that comes complete with a tilted primary mirror, secondary mirror, and a flat tertiary mirror. For any astronomer interested in making a variation on the more mainstream type of Yolo, the simplified Yolo may be the next project to give you a telescope with high contrast views and unobstructed performance. According to “Building A Simplified Yolo” in the January 2006 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine, the simplified Yolo needs to follow three basic rules:
1. Make sure the secondary and primary mirrors on the simplified Yolo have the same ROC or radius of curvature.
2. Tilt both the secondary and primary mirrors at the same angle.
3. Give equal spacing between the primary and secondary mirror as you do between the secondary mirror and the focal plane.
For Mario Motta, bigger is better – at least when it comes to telescopes. Motta, a cardiologist by profession has built one of the largest telescopes in New England for his home observatory. It weighs 1,200 pounds, has a 32-inch primary mirror, and can detect objects in space one million times fainter than the naked eye could see. This new optical design, a relay telescope, had the biggest cost with its $8000 primary blank mirror. To purchase a similar model of telescope would have cost Motta $250,000. Motta's friend Scott Milligan, an optical designer by profession, helped to design the relay system that Motta's telescope uses. Light passes through a row of three convex lenses with a special coating, which gives a clear, crisp image. The telescope eyepiece is placed on the bottom of the telescope for ease of viewing. The relay telescope now sits in Motta's home observatory, at the top of his study in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Have you always wanted to build your own telescope? The opportunity may only be as far as your local astronomy society. For instance, the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers, founded by John Dobson, the creator of the Dobsonian telescope, hosts year round telescope making classes for anyone with an interest in astronomy. You can also visit the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers Web site at www.sfsidewalkastronomers.org to find directions and plans to build your own telescope. To find an astronomy society near you, try Astronomy magazine's Web site at www.astronomy.com and go to their Astronomy Groups page.
Building your own telescope is an endeavor for the serious astronomy enthusiast. For those who want to take telescope building to the next level, consider a backyard observatory. With a reasonable budget of a few hundred dollars, you can construct a 4'x 8' backyard observatory complete with a foundation, walls, rolling roof, and door hardware. For the layperson with average skill, you can arm yourself with a few basic building books like “Basic Construction Techniques for Houses and Small Buildings Simply Explained” or “Wood-Frame House Construction”. Add a tape measure, hammer, and circular saw, and you'll be able to complete a successful backyard observatory for your own use.
To build your own telescope is to explore an undertaking into the inner workings of a stargazing device. There is no reason why you shouldn't employ the use of a software program to assist you in the process. A freeware optics design software program such as Winspot, by David Stevick, can make building your own telescope that much easier to accomplish. Winspot allows you to do everything from browsing through telescope designs to modifying them or even making your own designs. Once you have settled on a telescope type, you can plug in the configurations and experiment until you come up with the modifications that suit you.
This telescope looks something like a cross between a bucket and a rubber ball. That's because it is. It isn't the most typical type of telescope, but then its inventor, Jerry Oltion from Eugene Oregon, isn't the most typical kind of guy. Rather than seeking a patent for his unusual, but practical trackball telescope design, Jerry Oltion has written about his telescope in the August 2006 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine to share with other fellow amateur astronomers.
Using a Bic pen shell combined with a long bolt, fuel line, and a plastic pipe, Oltion created a rotating axle. A small motor provides the power to rotate a fiberglass wrapped ball housing a primary mirror on a stand. Together, the whole unit serves as the mount and tripod. Oltion then cut the bottom off of a bucket to become a shortened telescope tube, housing a secondary eyepiece and a mirror.
The trackball telescope invention may look odd, but it serves the stargazer well by allowing the viewer a greater amount of flexibility to aim the telescope than with a conventional mount and tripod.
If you have a homemade Dobsonian telescope, you may have had experience with the telescope going wayward with some side-to-side motion. There is a quick and inexpensive fix to this problem – the plastic milk jug. Here is how it works:
1. You'll be using the milk jug to make plastic washers for your homemade Dobsonian telescope. Use a pair of scissors to cut out a stack of a half dozen circular pieces from the milk jug, about an inch in diameter.
2. Using a heavy-duty utility knife, carve a circle out of the middle of each of the circular pieces, large enough to fit the center bolt on the mount of your telescope.
3. Place a few of the plastic washers onto the center bolt of your mount to reduce weight from the friction pads around the edge of your mount.
4. Test out your homemade Dobsonian telescope with the plastic washers and add or subtract them as needed to get the stability you are looking for.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|