Another huge thank you to every one of our now 57 donors who has helped us raise $6000 for the Fuertes Observatory in two weeks! With another two weeks to go, we need your help to spread the word to fellow alumni, friends, and anyone who you think would enjoy this project!
We want to give you a brief history of the Fuertes Observatory’s focal point, the Irving Porter Church Memorial Refractor, as renovating the dome room that houses the historic 12” telescope will be our main goal for this project.
When Fuertes was built in 1917, funds were not available to build the planned 12” refracting telescope in the dome room of the observatory. Instead, an old 4.5” refractor and its equatorial mount were installed in the dome room while plans were made for the new telescope. In 1919, Civil Engineering Professor Irving Porter Church obtained two 12” glass blanks from the Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin, and had them ground and polished by the expert John Brashear Company, which delivered the doublet lens the following year. Meanwhile, Prof. Church raised money from engineering alumni through crowdfunding (!) to build the rest of the telescope. In 1922, the renowned Warner & Swasey Company was contracted to build the telescope and its equatorial mount. The original 4.5” refractor was piggybacked onto the new 12”, and the telescope was completed on October 16th, 1922. It was dedicated and named in honor of Professor Church the following June.
The telescope tracks objects in the sky using an original weight-driven clock drive, and a flyball governor in the heart of the drive regulates the exact speed at which the gears turn. Few antique telescopes have their original, unmodified clock drives left in operation, making the Irving Porter Church Telescope one of only a handful in its condition. The telescope is open to the public every Friday evening as part of our open house nights, and tens of thousands of visitors have peered through the nearly 100 year old refractor at the planets, stars, and galaxies.
The beautiful, historic telescope now sits in a leaky room that has not been renovated in decades, and with your help, our goal is to restore the dome room back to its original condition.