Teachout Library and Observatory

31 01 2012

Workers at Teachout Library rooftop observatory, Hiram, Ohio, c. 1900. Photo courtesy Stephens Memorial Observatory and Hiram College Archives.

I’ve been slowly updating my public programs page. Just the idea of adding all the available viewing opportunities in California exhausts me, so I keep skipping that state to focus on observatories closer to home. Today, as I was digging through the links and thinking about a road trip, I came across a set of photos showing the construction of the Teachout Library and Observatory in Hiram, Ohio (replaced in 1939 by the Stephens Memorial Observatory).

I like the above photo for a couple of reasons.

First, it would seem that the photographer assigned a random tool to everyone, just in case his audience wouldn’t understand these men were involved in the building trades. We can see, from right to left: a carpenter square; something I’m not sure about but could be a flat construction pencil; a handsaw; a hatchet; a pick; and a hammer. The guy with the hammer is also holding an unknown object, possibly another hammer or a scribe.

The only worker not holding a tool is the one at the far left of the photo. That’s the second reason I like this photo. What’s that guy doing, peeking around the door jamb like that?

For more historic photos of the Teachout Library and Observatory, including a few of the 1939 fire that damaged the building but not the Warner and Swasey telescope inside, click the photo below.

Teachout Library and Observatory, c. 1900. Photo courtesy Stephens Memorial Observatory and Cary Bacher.

Wallpaper Wednesday

25 01 2012

LGS System on Mauna Kea Sky, Gemini Observatory. Photo credit: K. Pu'uohau-Pummill/Gemini Observatory

Today’s image of the Laser Guide Star of Gemini North makes a sweet wallpaper. Peeking in from behind the LGS system is the sky over the island of Hawaii and, yes, the moon! Click on the image above to connect to the wallpaper download page.

Abandoned Observatory, Nizhny Novgorod

23 01 2012

Zimenki Radio Astronomy Station, Радиоастрономическая станция «Зименки», Nizhny Novgorod, Russia

Are we still talking about abandoned observatories? If so, I’ve gathered a few links for the Zimenki Radio Astronomy Station in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. The Zemenki Station was built for Gorki University in 1949,  near the village of Zimenki on the Volga River. Originally, only a single radio telescope was constructed on the station. Eventually, two dishes were erected at the site.[1]  I’m not quite sure when work at Zimenki came to an end. It was functioning in 1964, when Zimenki and Jodrell Bank participated in several communication exercises.[2] According to the Committee on Radio Astronomy, a single dish was operational as recently as 2002. If it’s still working, I can’t find information about it. A visitor to the site in 2010 indicated that there was only one dish on the station, but none of the radio telescopes was in working order. If anyone can direct me to more information (in Russian or English, print or digital), I’d appreciate it.

Some photos:

From Abandoned Russia

From Wikimedia Commons

From Fishki.net (scroll down)

From Urban3P Project


[1] W. T. Sullivan III, Ed., The Early Years of Radio Astronomy: Reflections Fifty Years After Jansky’s Discovery (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984): 274.

[2] Edward Clinton Ezell and Linda Neuman Ezell, The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4209/ch2-5.htm).

Abandoned Observatory, Cornwall

23 01 2012

Belief in Ruins, Truro, Cornwall. Photo courtesy: Urban Exploration Resource

And speaking of abandoned observatories…

Urban Exploration Resource has a description and gallery of what remains of the “Observatory for Cornwall” charitable project on Wheal Busy, Truro, Cornwall.

An Awesome Way to Shovel Snow

20 01 2012

Jet Engine for blowing snow off the (former) 300 foot telescope at the NRAO Green Bank. Photo courtesy NRAO.

I found this photo, which shows an unnamed technician, Clifford Barkely, and Paul Devlin inspecting a jet engine, in NRAO’s facebook photo album. Back in the olden days (okay, before the 1988 collapse of the 300-Foot Telescope), engineers used to set up a jet engine next to the dish to blow it clean it of accumulated snow. I can only imagine the noise—I used to complain about the wind machines in the orchard next to my house when they ran during cold spring nights, and those were powered by car, not jet, engines (you can listen to one here, or you can just imagine a Chevy V-8 parked outside your bedroom window).

Since the 300-Foot Telescope is no more, the snow now accumulates in the dish of its replacement, the Green Bank Telescope (GBT). I’ve never seen it in action, but apparently controllers just tilt the dish past the angle of repose so the snow slides out. Maybe not as awesome as a jet engine blowing snow off the instrument, but I bet it’s still plenty interesting to watch an avalanche clearing a 100-meter dish.

Wallpaper Wednesday

19 01 2012

Abandoned. Photo credit: Andre Joosse.

For some reason, I missed the fact that yesterday was Wednesday. I’ll make it up to you next week. In the meantime, enjoy these beautiful images of an abandoned residential observatory near Villa Nostra, somewhere in Belgium (thanks, Inge!).

Gus Grissom Memorial

15 01 2012

Gus Grissom Monument, Mitchell, Indiana, January 2012. Photo credit: JR

One of the first places we visited after moving to Indiana in 1997 was the Gus Grissom Memorial at Spring Mill State Park, just east of Mitchell, Indiana. The memorial display was pretty minimalistic back then, consisting of the Gemini 3 space capsule “Molly Brown” and a case with Grissom’s space suit, helmet and gloves.

Gemini 3

Gemini 3 Space Capsule at Gus Grissom Memorial, July 2001. Photo credit: Karen Ducey

Still, it was pretty awesome, because you could get up close and personal with the space capsule. In 2009, the memorial was renovated completely. And when I say “completely,” I mean COMPLETELY. We stopped to visit on our way into the park to do some winter hiking, and wow, were we surprised by what we found.

Gemini 3 Space Capsule, Gus Grissom Memorial, Spring Mill State Park, January 2012. Photo credit: JR

As you can see, the Molly Brown is now untouchable as well as unsinkable, behind glass. The little kid in me is a little sad that I can’t touch it anymore. The heritage professional in me knows it’s a good idea to protect it from the little kid in me.[1] Anyway, there’s a lot more to look at and play with in the new display rooms, so I’m telling myself that’s a good trade off.

Gus Grissom Memorial, Spring Mill State Park, January 2012. Photo credit: JR

The display was expanded to include information about the town of Mitchell, the principles of aviation, and the history of rocket development. It also has many more of Grissom’s personal and professional artifacts, including his report cards, war medals, and space glove molds. The park ranger told us that Betty Grissom, Gus’s widow, donated enough material that they can rotate the displays to keep the content “fresh.” I hope they never take Grissom’s report cards off display. It’s heartening to see all those Cs (not to mention the F in Latin). Once Grissom found something he really wanted to do—be a test pilot—he had a good reason to study. His handwritten essays for his aviation exams are on show to prove it.

The exhibit includes several interactive displays (I missed one T/F question at each screen) and a short movie about Grissom’s early life and NASA career. I spent some time working the pitch-roll-yaw controls of the model plane display. I didn’t tell the strangers studying the model of the Saturn V rocket about my multiple visits to the Saturn V Center at Kennedy Space Center in November.

There are two other Gus Grissom sites in Mitchell, Indiana. The first is the Gus Grissom Monument, a 44-foot tall limestone recreation of the Redstone rocket that carried Grissom’s first space capsule, the Mercury Liberty Bell 7, into suborbital flight. The monument marks the site of Riley School, where Grissom earned mostly average grades.

Gus Grissom Monument, Mitchell, Indiana, January 2012. Photo credit: JR

The second stop to make in Mitchell is the Gus Grissom Childhood Museum. It’s still in the process of being renovated, so we had to be happy with just peeking the windows (hey, we saw the couch from astronaut Charlie Walker’s childhood home). And I have to admit, it was kind of cool to lean against the tree in front of the house and think, “Gus Grissom probably touched this tree!”

Gus Grissom Boyhood Home, Mitchell, Indiana, January 2012. Photo credit: JR

I’ve uploaded more photos of all three sites to my flickr account.


[1] If you want a hands-on experience with a Gemini capsule, you can go play in the Gemini trainer at the Louisville Science Center (I recommend this).

Space Settlement

12 01 2012
Space Colony NASA Study

Interior View of of Cylindrical Space Colony, 1975 (NASA AC75-1086). Image courtesy NASA Ames Research Center

Last night, I stumbled upon a collection of artwork documenting a series of space colony studies conducted at NASA Ames in 1975. If you want a snapshot of the U.S. space program during that time, take a look at the text from the NASA Ames/Stanford Summer Study. (If you’re one of my architecture students and you don’t feel like reading the entire book, just take a look at the design goals section.) Apparently, the 21st century is when we’re supposed to fulfill Hermann Oberth’s dream, “To make available for life every place where life is possible. To make inhabitable all worlds as yet uninhabitable, and all life purposeful.”

Well, we know where I stand on that issue (is there a reason humans have to claim every bit of the universe as their very own natural resource?), but still, I love some of the artwork that came out of those early brainstorming sessions.

Cutaway view of Toroidal Space Colony

Cutaway view of Toroidal Space Colony, 1975 (NASA75-1086-1). Image courtesy NASA Ames Research Center

You’ve got to love the mid-century modern multi-family dwellings with terra cotta patios. A more complete collection of renderings of 1975, 1976, and 1978 proposals can be found on the Space Settlement site.

Wallpaper Wednesday

11 01 2012
Northern Lights, Trapper Creek, Alaska, 1969

Northern Lights above Trapper Creek, Alaska, April 1969. Photo courtesy of National Geographic/Thomas J. Abercrombie

Today’s image is for my friend, Michelle, who had to drive home last night in whiteout conditions. The weather in Alaska may not be ideal right now, but at least she’s still well positioned to see the northern lights. Only now that I live in southern Indiana do I realize how lucky I was to be able to see them so frequently when I was a kid…

p.s. Check out the date on that photo! [Click on it to download wallpaper]

MSL Position

9 01 2012

If you hit this page trying to find the current position of the Mars Science Laboratory, click through here to go to NASA-JPL’s Where is Curiosity? page. JPL updates the simulated views of Curiosity’s journey daily.

Observatories and Instruments