McLean High School Observatory Project
Dean Howarth, a physics teacher at McLean High School, has asked assistance from NOVAC with an observatory on the school grounds. He can be reached at email@example.com or DHowarths@aol.com. Bill Burton pointed out there was an active astronomy club there in the 60s and 70s and that this is the second time a partnership has been initiated. At the time, there was also rust and the dome was in working order. They refurbished the small Celestron scope, did a rough collimation of the large scope and held a star party with about forty students participating. After the contact left the school nothing further was done.
The observatory is a reinforced concrete and block building behind the school with a metal dome, concrete and metal pier, and metal platform isolated from both the building and the pier. The chief problem is that during recent construction at the school, the observatory has been inaccessible, but not properly sealed. On the first floor, there is dust over everything, including the corrector plate of a Celestron 5" SCT, which is like a C5, but with a fork mount and no motor drive. The upper story was not sealed properly and paint is peeling everywhere and there is a lot of rust from puddled water here and there. The dome itself does not currently rotate. Something is probably rusted. The slit opens and shuts with a crank mechanism, but it needs to be clamped shut with two C-clamps (which was not done when construction started). The construction has also raised the horizons on the east and west considerably.
The scope itself is a Newtonian, about 13" or 14" on an equatorial mount. Maybe F6 even? It still has a serviceable focuser and a 32mm 2" eyepiece, also dirty. The clock drive looks in good condition and apparently works. All pointing is manual, by the way. The primary mirror needs cleaning, if not re-aluminizing. There is something apparently wrong with the cell. It looks like one of the triangles of a 9-point suspension has been pushed out of position. I did not look at the secondary. The finder scope is missing, but it looks like the mount would accommodate a 50mm finder.
The first floor area is very nice and well-lighted, with plenty of room for a chalk board and a couple of bulletin boards. It just needs cleaning. There are some interesting pieces of equipment on the first floor. The first thing to be seen upon entry was a spectroscope, but no one knew how it was used. It was apart, but the diffraction grating was still there (unmounted). There is also a solar filter in a crude mount, a number of ATM supplies and some abandoned projects.
The biggest concern is the structural integrity of the floor and dome (there is a lot of rust), so Dean will get a structural engineer from the school system to look it over. Another concern is whether or not the flaking paint contains lead. We'll want to do a lot of paint stripping and rust removal, unstick the dome unstuck and then paint.
A view of the concrete and steel piller,
the steel stairway and the front door. The second floor is isolated from
both the telescope and the reinforced concrete structure which supports