Telescopes

The Detroit Observatory is the oldest extant observatory in America to retain its original telescopes from the 1850s in working condition in their original mounts (the Fitz refracting telescope and Pistor & Martins meridian circle). The Fauth transit telescope used in the students' observatory beginning in 1880 is also on view in the Observatory's museum, but only a few pieces remain from the Alvan Clark & Sons refracting telescope, or the later 37 1/2-inch reflecting telescope.


Fitz Refracting Telescope (1857)

Photograph of Fitz Telescope

University of Michigan
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(UBImus C455-86)

The 12-5/8 inch objective lens of this refracting telescope was one of the largest in the world when it was completed in 1857. President Tappan ordered the telescope from Henry Fitz of New York. The original wooden telescope tube visible in this photograph was replaced by steel in 1907. The original objective lens is unique in that it is the largest remaining Fitz lens that has not been reground. The telescope was completely restored in 1997.


Meridian Circle Telescope (1854)

University of Michigan
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(UBImus C455-86)

Tappan ordered this 6-inch telescope from the firm of Pistor & Martins in Berlin. After the telescope was inspected by Franz Brünnow, it was shipped to New York, and then on to Ann Arbor by train. Henry Walker of Detroit donated the funds to purchase this telescope. Although antiquated by today's standards, the meridian circle's precision technology was used in the 19th century to determine time by tracking stars as they crossed the meridian. It is housed in the building's east wing. Note the roof and wall hatches that open to permit observations. See the telescope as it looks today.


Students' Transit Telescope (1880)

University of Michigan
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(UBImus C455-86)

This instrument, which is a small version of the meridian circle telescope, was obtained in 1880 from Fauth and Company of Washington, D.C. It was used in the Students' Observatory, which was a separate, small building located behind the main observatory. It is currently on display in the Observatory's museum.


Students' Refracting Telescope (1880)

University of Michigan
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(UBImus C455-86)

The Observatory's director, Mark Harrington, purchased a 6-inch refractor by Alvan Clark & Sons for use in the Student's Observatory. The Student's Observatory was constructed because students complained that the main telescopes were seldom available because the faculty used them for research.


37 1/2-inch Reflecting Telescope (1908)

In 1908 a large facility was added to the east of the Observatory that included classrooms, offices, a clock room, and a 37 1/2-inch reflecting telescope intended for spectrographic work. It was one of the largest telescopes in the world at the time, made entirely in the Observatory Shop, except for its mirror. When the addition was demolished in 1976, the massive 37 1/2-inch reflecting telescope was disassembled, but several of its parts, including the mirror and driving clock, are in storage at the University. The mount was given to the Lake Erie Astronomical Project.

Last updated: 1:26 PM 12/1/2008