34th Meeting of the AAS Division on Dynamical Astronomy, May 2003
7 Space Missions, Astrometry, and Observables
Oral, Tuesday, May 6, 2003, 8:30-10:50am,

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[7.04] Schlesinger's Telescope: A Brief History of the Yale 26-inch Refractor

W. F. van Altena, E. D. Hoffleit (Yale University)

Frank Schlesinger began planning for the establishment of a southern observatory when he arrived at Yale in 1920. After discussing the possibility of a location in Auckland, New Zealand and gathering site survey observations for a four-month period, he decided to select a site in Johannesburg, South Africa. A large photographically corrected 26-inch objective was ground, polished and completed by James McDowell in 1923, while the telescope was built largely in the Yale shops in New Haven. Schlesinger left New Haven in 1924 with the lens, and the telescope followed shortly thereafter. Installation of the 26-inch refractor was completed in early June and dedicated by the Prince of Wales on June 22, 1924. The principal observational program for the 26-inch refractor was the determination of parallaxes of the bright stars and it was continued until 1952, when the telescope was moved to Mt. Stromlo due to the deteriorating sky conditions in Johannesburg. The parallax program continued at Mt. Stromlo until 1963 when the telescope was donated to the Commonwealth Observatory and the Yale-Columbia project moved to Argentina, Columbia having joined with Yale in 1943. Approximately 70,000 plates were taken with the refractor for the parallax programs and about 2,000 stellar parallaxes determined. The Schlesinger 26-inch refractor was destroyed by a firestorm on January 18, 2003, along with the other telescopes on Mount Stromlo, the workshop, library and many of the residences. This event was a sad ending to a telescope that played a major role in defining our knowledge of the distances, motions and masses of the brighter stars during the first half of the 20th century.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #4
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.