Dome In A Day: Progress on the Public Observatory Project

Posted on Thu, July 9, 2009

The Public Observatory Project (POP) is nearer to completion.  We are in the process of installing a large professional Boller & Chivens telescope in a 22-foot dome that will be available for four hours each day (weather permitting) to view the Sun, Moon and planets from the east terrace of the Museum. POP will be available for casual observing and for school and special interest groups. It will also be the Museum's nerve center for the International Year of Astronomy throughout the rest of 2009 and well into 2010.

Over the past two weeks many people have devoted many many hours to making the Public Observatory Project (POP) closer to being ready for the public.  Once the rim of the foundation had been cast, Andy, Katie and John used both GPS and a simple shadow gnomon to determine the north-south alignment, marking the line on the rim of the foundation.  Then, a concrete pad was poured and leveled, followed by thick pads of Sorbothane, then a 6 x 6 foot iron plate, and finally the sole plate, tilted 3.6 degrees to the north to accommodate the latitude difference between Harvard, Massachusetts, the original home of the Boller & Chivens telescope, and Washington, D.C.  Larry and Ted continued to work on modernizing and ruggedizing the electronic relay system for the telescope, the pier was poured and trimmed, and finally, this week, assembly started. The dome gore sections were brought to the terrace, as well as the walls, with the help of Joe Deregt, who came all the way from Australia to lead the charge. 

The dome was assembled, then the walls went up.  Finally, yesterday, the 60-ton crane arrived, the pedestal was fitted to the pier base, and, by noon, the dome was lifted into place, carefully fitted by adjusting the base, and finally, after testing dome rotation (smooth!) the walls were secured to the foundation rim. At the end of the day, Frank, Stephanie, Joe and David were treated to dinner by curators from the Division of Space History!

More background on this project is provided in a previous blog post.