Thursday, October 6, 2016

Proposed Carnegie Science Center Addition Omits Historic Telescope
Pictured is the 10-inch Siderostat-Type Refractor Telescope in operation at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center) in the 1980s. While the telescope tube is permanently mounted on a concrete pier (telescope tube does not move, except for the movements of the Earth), a flat first-surface mirror (which does move by an electric motor, with a clock-drive mechanism), behind the telescope, reflects images of the sky into the telescope. And, while the telescope remains out in the cooler air, people can look through the telescope while remaining in a heated room (i.e. a glass wall separates the eyepiece from the rest of the telescope). (Image Source: Francis G. Graham, Professor Emeritus of Physics, Kent State University)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

A proposed addition to Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Science Center does not include re-installation of a historic telescope, as promised to the City of Pittsburgh in 2002. According to a 2002 legal Memorandum of Understanding between the City and the Science Center, the Science Center had agreed to include re-installation of the city-owned telescope with the construction of an addition to the The Carnegie Science Center.

The telescope is a rather unique 10-inch Siderostat-Type Refractor Telescope, which was installed in Pittsburgh’s original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science in 1941. The 75th anniversary of this telescope will be on November 19th. This type of specialized telescope, which is specifically designed for use by the public, is rather rare. Upon re-installation of this telescope, it would be the largest Siderostat-Type Telescope in the world, as two larger such telescopes have both been dismantled.

A huge 49-inch Siderostat-Type Refractor Telescope was built for a special exhibition in Paris in 1900. After the exhibition, when the telescope could not be sold, it was dismantled. The University of Paris still possesses the telescope's 49-inch objective lens, but the rest of the telescope is gone.

Around 1929, a Philadelphia businessman, Gustavas Wynne Cook, built a 15-inch Siderostat-Type Refractor Telescope (with the lens and mounting coming from John Brashear's company in Pittsburgh) for his suburban estate. At Mr. Cook's death in 1940, the telescope and observatory were donated to the University of Pennsylvania. After disposing of the suburban property in 2007, the telescope was given to amateur astronomers in Jacksonville, Florida; to this day, they have not been able to raise the funds to build a new observatory for this telescope.

The Carnegie Science Center dismantled and placed the Buhl Planetarium Siderostat-Type Telescope in storage in 2002, to make-way for expansion of The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. At that time, a legal Memorandum of Understanding was enacted, between the City and the Science Center, indicating that the Science Center would include the telescope in an expansion of the Science Center building. However, the height, location, and configuration of the proposed Science Center expansion makes installation of any telescope not feasible. Hence, it is questionable whether Science Center officials seriously considered including the Siderostat-Type Telescope in this building addition.

Friends of the Zeiss Project Director Glenn A. Walsh, who served as Astronomical Observatory Coordinator of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center) in Allegheny Center from 1986 to 1991, addressed the Pittsburgh City Planning Commission regarding this project on October 4. The following is the prepared text of his comments to the Commission (blog-post continues following the text of this public statement):

Friends of the Zeiss                                      Public Statement Before
P.O. Box 1041                                                                        Planning Commission of
Pittsburgh, PA 15230-1041 U.S.A.                                      the City of Pittsburgh
Telephone: 412-561-7876                                                      By Glenn A. Walsh --
E-Mail: < >                                      Science Center Master Plan:
Web Site: < >                Siderostat Observatory
Blog: < >                Missing
2016 October 4

Good afternoon, I am Glenn Walsh, 633 Royce Avenue, Mt. Lebanon, Project Director of Friends of the Zeiss. From 1986 to 1991, I was Astronomical Observatory Coordinator of the original Buhl Planetarium in Allegheny Center.

We have reviewed The Carnegie Science Center MDP and find something missing: an observatory for a historic, city-owned telescope that the Science Center promised the City, by legal memorandum of understanding, would be included in the Science Center expansion. However, the height, location, and configuration of the proposed expansion makes installation of any telescope not feasible. Hence, we question if installation of this telescope was seriously considered.
Called a Siderostat-Type Telescope, it has a unique design, specifically for public use. It allows the public to remain in a heated room, while the telescope stays out in the cooler air. Built at Buhl Planetarium in 1941, it will mark its 75th anniversary on November 19th. With a 10-inch lens, upon re-installation it would be the largest Siderostat-Type Telescope in the world, as two larger such telescopes have both been dismantled.

In 2002, when this historic telescope was dismantled, the City allowed the Science Center to store the telescope until a building addition is built. At a 2008 Planning Commission Hearing, Science Center Co-Director Ron Baillie said he would provide the Commission with a copy of the legal memorandum of understanding, between the City and the Science Center, regarding reuse of the telescope.

According to a 2013 Pursuant Ketchum Fundraising Analysis, funding any Science Center expansion would be difficult. So, it seems unlikely another expansion could occur in the foreseeable future.

We ask that the Planning Commission seek clarification of this issue before approving the MDP. Our question is simple: With this city-owned telescope removed from Buhl Planetarium, and, currently, no feasible way to install it at the Science Center, how will the Science Center now keep its legal commitment to the City, and when will city residents, again, be able to use this historic telescope?


Link >>>

Following the Public Comment Period, the Planning Commission asked the Science Center representatives to address Mr. Walsh's concerns. Ron Baillie, Henry Buhl, Jr. Co-Director of The Carnegie Science Center, said that the legal Memorandum of Understanding had no time limit; the Science Center was, hence, not required to install the telescope at this time.

He also said that the telescope was too large and obsolete for installation in the Science Center. He said that the Science Center's current telescope was computerized and easier to use. Following Mr. Baillie's comments, the City Planning Commission approved the Science Center's expansion plans by a unanimous vote.

It is odd that Mr. Baillie would call the Siderostat-Type Telescope obsolete. When is any telescope, that can continue to serve its main purpose, obsolete? Would he also say that The Carnegie Museum's famous dinosaur skeletons are obsolete, and we can learn no more from them, simply because they are old?

Indeed, for use by the public, a Siderostat-Type Telescope is still quite advanced, particularly considering Buhl's telescope was built in 1941! With the Siderostat-Type Telescope, the public can use the telescope year-round, while standing in a heated observing room. With most other telescopes, including the Science Center's current telescope, during the colder weather the public has to be outside with the telescope, if it is used at all in the cold weather (the Science Center closes their observatory during the cold weather).

Of course, telescopic images can now be brought indoors to computer or television screens. But, telescopic view by video can be viewed just as easily at home as it can be in a planetarium or science center! When people visit a planetarium or science center, they want to look through a telescope; a Siderostat-Type Telescope can make such an experience much more comfortable during the colder weather.

If The Carnegie Science Center had no intentions of using the Siderostat-Type Telescope, why did they apply to the City to move the telescope? Yes, they specifically applied to the City, to move the telescope out of the Buhl Planetarium building. Friends of the Zeiss also applied to the City Request for Proposals (RFP), to use the telescope in the Buhl Planetarium building. However, the City agreed to allow the Science Center to move the telescope out of the Buhl Planetarium building into storage.

Could it be that the Science Center wanted to make sure that neither Friends of the Zeiss, nor the Children’s Museum, used the Siderostat-Type Telescope in “competition” with the Science Center's then-new telescope? Now, I think the evidence is pretty clear that this was the Science Center's primary motivation.

And, how is the Science Center using their current domed-observatory? Up until this year, it was open to the public twice-a-week (Friday and Saturday evenings), weather-permitting, except during the cold-weather months. Beginning this year, the Science Center observatory is only open once or twice each month!

So, now that the Science Center has decided not to reassemble the Siderostat-Type Telescope, it seems the Siderostat-Type Telescope will continue unable to educate city residents in Astronomy, as the telescope collects dust. Even if the Children’s Museum decided to reuse the Siderostat-Type Telescope, it would cost them money to convert, what is now a Board Room, back into an observatory. There would have been no capital cost to reuse the Siderostat-Type Telescope, had it stayed in the Buhl Planetarium building, as Friends of the Zeiss had recommended!

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Walsh, Glenn A. "Science Center Addition Omits Historic Telescope."
Public Statement Before Allegheny County Council.
Friends of the Zeiss 2016 Nov. 22.
Link >>> 

Berger, Larry.
Radio Interview Regarding 75th Anniversary of Buhl Planetarium Observatory. Audio: Radio Interview.
Saturday Light Brigade Radio Program: 2016 November 19.
Larry Berger, host of the Saturday Light Brigade children's / family radio program, interviewed Glenn A. Walsh on the 75th anniversary of the Astronomical Observatory of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, which was dedicated on 1941 November 19.
Link >>>

Walsh, Glenn A. "Science Center Addition Omits Historic Telescope."
Public Statement Before Pittsburgh City Council.
Friends of the Zeiss 2016 Nov. 14.
Link >>>

Walsh, Glenn A. "Science Center Addition Omits Historic Telescope."
Public Statement Before Special Board Meeting of the Allegheny Regional Asset District Board of Directors.
Friends of the Zeiss 2016 Nov. 9.
Link >>>

Behrman, Elizabeth. "Buhl Planetarium telescope excluded from science center's expansion plans."
Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh 2016 Oct. 6.
Link >>>

Nelson Jones, Diana. "Planning Commission OKs plan to expand Carnegie Science Center."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2016 October 5.
The end of the article discusses Mr. Walsh's public statement before the City Planning Commission.
Link >>>

(Additional radio news coverage of this issue, including short interview with Glenn A. Walsh by reporter Elaine Effort, on KQV-AM 1410 NewsRadio on Friday Afternoon, 2016 October 7.)

Buhl Planetarium's 10-inch Siderostat-Type Refractor Telescope:
Link >>>

Brief History of Siderostat-Type Telescopes:
Link >>>

2008 City Planning Commission Statement  of Glenn A. Walsh on same subject:
Related Blog Post ---

Walsh, Glenn A. "75th Anniversary: America's 5th Public Observatory." Blog-Post.
SpaceWatchtower 2016 Nov. 19.
75th anniversary of The People's Observatory of Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, including the rather unique 10-inch Siderostat-Type Refractor Telescope.

Link >>>

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2016 Oct. 6.

                                                               Historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
     Link >>>

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