For the past few years, our friends in the Salt Lake Astronomical Society have been modifying 4.5-inch table-top reflector telescopes and getting them into local libraries in that valley so that patrons can check them out and get an introduction to back yard astronomy. It has been wildly successful. The telescopes are essentially never in the library. They are out being used every night. Their mandate as a non-profit is similar to ours, which is to educate the public on matters of science and astronomy in particular. This program advances that goal in spades. It is very popular. Apparently, the telescopes are never in the library, they are continuously checked out, even in winter.
We are hoping to start this same program here in Utah County. The first library to receive telescopes is Provo. On June 15 I was able to help members of SLAS to modify some additional telescopes going out to libraries in Salt Lake County, as well as 2 for Provo. It’s a bit of a process which involves making the scopes able to stand up to constant use by those who might not quite know exactly what they are doing 😉 The eyepiece is permanently mounted with glue. All caps are attached via cords so that they won’t be lost, and rather than a finger turnable knob for collimating the mirror, it requires tools. Included with the telescope is an 8 – 24 mm zoom eyepiece, as well as a guide to the night sky and a quick start guide. One of the things that we modify is to cut a hole in the dust cap to use as a ‘moon port’. This allows the user to look at the bright moon with less aperture, which will help it not be so bright without needing a filter. I’ve tried it out, and it works fine for that. You will see in the photos that the EZ finder has been modified to take AA batteries, which makes it easier to service. I think this is a good change to make it more friendly.
If you have any influence on your local city library or would like to talk to them about getting 1 or 2 of these telescopes, please let us know that you want to help. The cost is about $340 per telescope, including all materials shown in the photos. This can be paid by the library or can be some sort of fundraiser. The labor to do the conversion is provided free of charge by SLAS and UVAC. In addition, there will need to be a club member who sponsors the telescopes in each library, meaning that they will provide support to the librarians, and fix any problems that arise such as misalignment or anything else. This is not a huge commitment. I’m told that the 30 telescopes in Salt Lake County have generated maybe 20 service calls in 3 years.
Here are a few photos of the finished product.