OH!, CINCINNATI ------------- John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc www.nyskies.org firstname.lastname@example.org 2006 March 10
Introduction ---------- In October 2005 American Association of Variable Star Observers held its fall convention in Newton. Massachusetts. I compiled a set of four reports about this convention, posted into NYSkies in the following months. One of these covered observatories and astronomy facilities. One of these was the Cincinnati Observatory, Cincinnati, Ohio. This facility was described in a presentation by Gerald Dyk. Please see my main article as background for this instant piece.
The Clark refractor ----------------- Cincinnati Observatory, according to the Dyk lecture, has two refractors. One is a Merz instrument of eleven-plus inch aperture. The other, Dyk explained, is a Clark product of eight inch aperture. One 'inch' is about 2-1/2 centimeters. He repeatedly mentioned these scopes in his talk and cited their apertures. He even corrected a misstated aperture during the question-&-answer after the talk. His talk was lavishly illustrated with photographs, maps, plans, documents, but, as far as anyone at the meeting can recall, no illustration of the very Clark telescope itself.
The great Clark theft ------------------- This is one of the more amazing tales of astronomy in the 20th century! In summary a Robert Thomas stole the lens of the eight-inch Clark refractor in 1981, hid it for 17ish years, then was busted / when he offered the lend to Roane State College in Tennessee. The lens was recovered intact and restored to the telescope. A good account of this saga is given in 'Sidereal messenger', newsletter of the Cincinnati Astronomical Society in 2000. The key facts here is that the Clark lens is 8-1/2 inch aperture and that the Society replaced it with a Clark lens of 8 inch diameter soon after the theft. The new lens was made for John Dawes of England in the mid 19th century. He used it for optical tests but not as a telescope objective. Hence, at first, Dyk's continual reference to the Clark as '8- inch' seemed reasonable; this was the size of the replacement lens.
The question! ----------- As one of the after-talk questions, I asked Dyk to relate the story of this lens theft. Dyk didn't know of any theft. He stated that during his visit to Cincinnati Observatory there ws no mention of any stolen lens. I withdrew the question, thinking that I misremembered which observatory was the victim. In the break between lecture sessions and all during the next day's breaks, other AAVSO delegates came to me. They, too, wondered about the lens story and validated my question. They were, too, surprised that nothing was said about it, specially since it was a major news item and would be a capital chapter of Cincinnati Observatory's history.
NYSkies around the world ---------------------- I entered my AAVSO account into the NYSkies forum of Yahoogroups. Like for any Internet open forum, material from NYSkies is freely circulated well beyond the confines of its subscribers. Eventually John Ventre, of Cincinnati Observatory, wrote to me with some intriguing comments about my summary. There never was a lens stolen from the Cincinnati Observatory! Wait a minute. After a few volleys of email, Ventre cleared the air. There are TWO observatories in Cincinnati with functioning Clark refractors! One is the offices of the Cincinnati Astronomical Society (CAS) in one part of town. It has a Clark refractor of 8-1/2 inch diameter. The other is the very Cincinnati Observatory (CO) in an other part of town. It has a Clark refractor of, uh, SIXTEEN inch diameter. The two properties are operated by wholly independent entities and are not corporately related. It was the CAS -- not CO -- Clark lens that was lifted in 1981. Being that the lost lens was supplanted by a slightly smaller one of 8 inch aperture, and this new lens was in use for over twenty years, it became common to refer to this telescope as the 'eight-inch' scope. After the 8-1/2 inch lens was reseated in the CAS scope, it was found that the replacement 8-inch lens actually performed slightly better! The original, stolen, lens was removed and placed on display and the scope now operates with the new 8-inch objective. Nothing happened at CO's property, so there was no casual reason to bring up the CAS episode during Dyk's visit.
Eight and sixteen --------------- This leaves the real puzzle of Dyk routinely calling the CO (not CAS) scope an 'eight inch' Clark in his lecture. Could he have simply misgaged the size of the scope he saw at Cincinnati Observatory? Hardly. Given the design of 19th and early 20th century long-focus refractors, there's one hell of a difference between a scope of aperture 2-to-1 in ratio. The larger specimen does not not just have twice as fat a tube. It's about twice as long. The entire unit stands twice as tall on its pier and German mount! From my experience with such scopes, the eight-inch (only the lens was changed at CAS; the mechanical parts stayed the same) reaches when aimed at the zenith 3 to 4 meters tall. A sixteen-incher attains some 7 to 8 meters in height! The pier and mount for the larger unit is greatly more massive than that for the smaller. Altho one could misjudge between an 8 and 8-1/2 inch scope, there's no way he could goof between an 8 and 16 inch model. If some one standing next to a 16-inch refractor mistakenly said this is an 8- inch scope, I would ask if he meant the guide scope.
Conclusion -------- Ventre noted in our correspondence that he and Dyk inspected the 16-inch Clark and that Dyk was fully appreciative of its bulk and volume. Yet, he never said anything about a 'sixteen-inch' Clark scope nor showed, as best as I can recall, showed any pictures of it. None of the delegates who spoke with me later caught Dyk's error of size or corrected me about the wrong facility suffering the theft. Suppose I, for some reason, missed seeing a Dyk picture of the 16- inch Clark at CO. Other delegates would have caught it and ask, 'Are you sure that's only 8-inch in aperture?' or 'Why did they diaphragm it so severely?'. Nothing of this kind was expressed by anyone. In fact, as at early March of 2006, only John Ventre gave the suitable amendments necessary to resolve the discrepancy.