Historic Telescope Restored – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Historic Telescope Restored

After many moon cycles out of commission, the Transit Telescope at the Smith Observatory was fixed on Wednesday, May 7, making it the only working vintage transit telescope in the world. As part of an independent study, Matt McIvor ’09 and Jessie Schwartz ’08 researched the construction and operation of the unique telescope and retrofitted a new objective lens to replace the telescope’s long broken lens. “Because transit telescopes are so difficult to use, no one bothers with them anymore, concentrating on the main telescope instead,” explains Physics Department Technician Rick Bolton. “Matt and Jessie’s project was of incredible value to the historical preservation of this treasure and taught them a lot about detailed telescope operations.” Schwartz, a physics major who became interested in the transit scope after talking with Assistant Professor Steve Penn, appreciates the telescope’s historical significance. “Professor William Brooks, who ran the Observatory from 1888 until 1921, discovered more than 20 comets from the Observatory, and he used the transit telescope to report the proper time and celestial coordinates of the comets.” Transit telescopes are used only for determining time or location. In the late 1800s, when the Smith Observatory was considered a high-tech facility, the transit telescope determined the time for the entire city of Geneva. Though no longer used, the telescopes served as an important basis for developing modern statistical theory.