The Big Blue Beast: the 31-inch f/7 Reflector at Warren Rupp Observatory
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Last touched 2001 December 16
I didn't make this telescope, but I sure wish I had!
From 1986 to 1990, I had the thrill to have regular access to the 31-inch f/7 Newtonian reflector at Warren Rupp Observatory, near Mansfield, Ohio. Like any large observatory mounted telescope, this scope had its good points, problems, ups and downs. For the first year or so, it had no drive and was often out of balance. Later, a club member built a fine computer drive and later upgraded the drive to work with The Sky software and turned it into a mean observing machine.
The telescope's optics were made by the late Norm Oberlie, of North Royalton, Ohio. I wrote a pretty good history of the telescope and observatory that was published in Telescope Making issue number 31 (Winter 87/88), so I won't go too much into the history here.
Below are some images of the observatory, scope and people around it. My times at Warren Rupp were the some of the best years I've had. The people were great, the scope was great and the observing was the best.
I don't care what Tippy and any others might say. They didn't use this scope day and day out like I did. This is the best, observatory mid-sized reflector East of the Mississippi. People who knock this instrument after a single observing session, or worse, a single glance at a star party, just openly admit their ignorance of large observatory mounted telescopes. I know, I've had the use of 30, 32, 40-inch observatory mounted reflectors and a 26-inch refractor.
While at Rupp, I can claim the following:
- Shown the central star of M-57 to more people then anyone else (perhaps 3,000);
- Observed all of the known planetary nebulas located in globular clusters;
- Observed the Mountains of Mitchell on Mars;
- Observed Phobos and Deimos;
- First known visual observation of a gravitational lensed quaser (0957+561 in UMa) (with Stephen O'Meara). See January, 1992 issue of Sky & Telescope, pp. 6-7 for more details.
Deep sky observing with this telescope was a simple joy. Fifthteenth magnitude galaxies are direct vision. Messier objects look like photographs. After midnight, when the seeing is good, planets are mind numbingly rich with detail. This scope spoils you very quickly.
I also used the 31-inch as my primary instrument for observations used in several articles in Deep Sky magazine, including articles about dim Globulars in Sagittarius (DS 34), Exploring the Region of M51 (DS 30), and A Night of Galaxies Near M13 (DS 27).
Click on most images for a larger/high resolution version of the image
Here is my favorite view of the big blue beast. Brent Archinal stands at the eyepiece while the scope is pointed to zenith. We actually observed up there a lot. The mite-e-lift is very stable and very friendly once you get to know and understand how it moves. Most people don't like to go this high. 20mm Nikkor lense on a Nikon FM2.
Another favorite view of the beast. I used a flash to fill the inside of the observatory while these guys were looking at the Moon. You can see Venus and the Moon through the slit. This is facing west. Most of these images are scans from original Ektachrome 64 slides.
Perhaps my favorite object with the beast was Mars. The 1988 observing season was wonderful. CAS member Jay Elkes and I made the trip up from Columbus in bright moon light several times. It was during this time that we discovered you only ever got the best seeing with the beast if there was no one else in the dome at the time. Here's Jay at the eyepiece, Mars in the sky and a 9-inch aperture mask on the front of the scope. For this photo, I turned the red lights up to full and took a 15 second exposure.
Here we've driven the lift outside, I've raised it to look back inside at the scope while Brent is hanging out so you can see how big this beast is.
Here's the drive system built by Warren Walker. It was stepper motor driven and worked well.
It was fun to drive the lift outside. Brent is showing off just how high the lift can go. It is weighted down by several heavy batteries.
For this photo, we drove the lift outside and raised it. I clamped the camera to the side of the lift and opened the camera shutter. Brent rotated the dome while the shutter was open. Note the original TJ 20-inch telescope stored on in the dome to the left of the big scope. In this photo, you can see the two 5-inch f/5 (Jeagers) finder scopes and the 8-inch Celestron Schmidt camera attached to the front of the scope.
Here's an outside view of the observatory dome and club house for the Richland Astronomical Society.
For a couple of years, Norm had the scope set up in his back yard. Here's a photo that was taken in 1973.
A few observations made with the scope. One of these days, I'll get around to scanning some of the drawing of deep sky that I have. They are the real gems of the collection.
I only tried prime focus deep sky photography with the 31-inch once. I didn't have a way to guide the scope for more than a few seconds. But one night, the camera was loaded with Konica 3200, so I tried it out on M-42. This is a 45 second exposure. This is a scan from original negative and processed with Paint Shop Pro. I have several similar negs, so some day perhaps I'll scan more of them and process them properly. Nonetheless, this image shows a lot of detail, including detail in the inner sections of the nebula you normally don't see in photographs.
I rarely made drawings of Jupiter: there was too much detail. I did make this drawing and lost it for several years. I failed to record the date I made it, but it gives a good idea as to the level of detail that could be seen.
I loved to observe Mars with this scope. Here's a photograph taken in 1988 (Ektachrome 200). Not really super and unprocessed, but it's pretty good.
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