• 1,000 Days to First Light: Construction of the Perth-Lowell Telescope Facility, 1968-71

    Robert Hunt (see profile)
    Science and Technology Studies (STS), Science Studies and the History of Science
    Science--Philosophy, Technology--Philosophy, Science, Technology, History
    Item Type:
    astronomy, History of astronomy, lowell, perth, telescope, History and philosophy of science and technology, History of science, History of technology, Space
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    NASA’s Viking probes were launched in 1975. Six years earlier an International Planetary Patrol Network of telescopes was set up to observe Martian surface conditions. Sites were chosen to provide continuous observing, and were located in Hawaii, eastern Australia, India, South Africa, Chile, and central USA. Negotiations for a facility to be specially built at the existing Perth Observatory in Western Australia began in 1968 and 1,000 days later the new telescope saw first light. Aspects of the design are counter-intuitive for optimal telescope performance. The purpose of the current investigation was to understand why there was such a departure from standard observatory design, at the risk of compromising performance, and to identify the drivers for the decision-making processes. Thermal expansion and wind stresses on the structure were reduced by design features including shade fins and protective walls, and ground thermal disturbance was addressed by simply raising the structure high off the ground and prohibiting iron roofs around the structure. Actual seeing measurements were not a significant design requirement, rather anticipating the experience of subsequent users to record these, albeit subjectively. Primary documentary evidence shows that the Perth-Lowell installation exists with its current floor height because of successive approvals for construction modifications. The initial design was by Harris, and requests for such re-designs came from him, but in close negotiation with Andrzejaczek who desired a structure of futuristic shape and proportions. Harris’ designs were strongly influenced by his personal English background and the Old Perth Observatory where he worked as an astronomer. Andrzejaczek’s design criteria were potentially influenced by an observatory in his birth city, his alignment with contemporary European designers and his artistic Post-Modern flair. Both men approached their task with no nonsense and professional opportunism.
    This article was a report for a study completed as part of a Masters degree in astronomy
    Last Updated:
    3 years ago
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