The lost relative of the South Dome refractor

Aina Musaeva is an astronomy guide at Sydney Observatory and PhD student at Sydney University.
On a recent overseas trip she made an interesting discovery and link with a very special object at Sydney Observatory.

During my recent academic trip to Germany I accidentally came across a long lost relative of the historical refracting telescope in the South Dome at Sydney Observatory. The South Dome refractor is the oldest working telescope in Australia and was built in 1874 by Hugo Schröder in Hamburg, Germany.
I visited Dr. Karl Remeis-Sternwarte, the Observatory in Bamberg, to give a talk about my academic research, and Prof. Jörn Wilms kindly showed me around the museum part of the Observatory. And there it was, a beautiful Schröder’s refractor, the lost twin of the one we have at Sydney Observatory.

The beautiful wooden tube of Schröder's Telescope in Bamberg, Germany. Photo and copyright Aina Musaeva ©, all rights reserved.
The beautiful wooden tube of Schröder’s Telescope in Bamberg, Germany.
Photo and copyright Aina Musaeva ©, all rights reserved.

Unlike the South Dome refractor, this telescope tube was never painted, what you’re seeing in the picture is the pure wood.
According to the letters from the time when Karl Remeis bought the telescope, he got it from his friend Paul Harzer, who at the time worked for the Frankfurt Trade Fair, which had obtained the instrument as part of the bankruptcy proceedings of Schröder.

The Maker's Plate from the Schröder Telescope in Bamberg, Germany. Photo and copyright Aina Musaeva ©, all rights reserved.
The Maker’s Plate from the Schröder Telescope in Bamberg, Germany.
Photo and copyright Aina Musaeva ©, all rights reserved.

This telescope, however, is no longer operational. The lens has a number of “discolouring” spots, which are air inclusions in the lens. This was fairly common for telescopes of that time. According to reports, the view through the telescope was nice, but the main problem was the wooden tube, which tended to bend and so pointing the telescope was challenging. It may be that our South Dome refractor is also the only operational Schröder’s refractor!

If you would like to see the South Dome refractor in action, why not come down to Sydney Observatory for a night tour? I love looking at the Moon and the Orion Nebula with this telescope; come March I’ll be sure to use it to see Jupiter and its Galilean moons.

Aina with Schröder's Telescope in Bamberg, Germany. Photo and copyright Aina Musaeva ©, all rights reserved.
Aina with Schröder’s Telescope in Bamberg, Germany.
Photo and copyright Aina Musaeva ©, all rights reserved.
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2 responses to “The lost relative of the South Dome refractor

  • That’s a most interesting find Aina. For the Sydney telescope Hugo Schröder only provided the lens and the focusing mechanism together with a large selection of eyepieces.Hence the metal tube and the mounting were built locally under the supervision of Government Astronomer Henry Chamberlain Russell – initially in 1874 to quickly get the telescope ready for the transit of Venus and then the mounting was replaced in 1883.

    A later Government Astronomer Harley Wood designed and had built a new cell to hold the lens in the late 1940s.

    The fact that unlike the Schröder telescope in Bamberg the Sydney one is still operating without a bending tube and without spots in the lens is a tribute to the care and expertise of past government astronomers as well as to the people who maintain it and operate it today.

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