Jupsat Pro Astronomy Software

Secrets of the Deep Sky

Get Instant Access

We followed some intriguing historical leads, by traveling to the United States and to the United Kingdom, and our findings below are based on our detailed readings of archival material at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona and the Royal Astronomical Society's archives at Burlington House in London.

The history of the International Astronomical Union's Commission on Nebulae and Star Clusters (Commission Number 28) spanning the period 1922-1925 is particularly rich and archival material is on file both in Arizona and London. Slipher, then acting director at Lowell Observatory, was the president of the Commission during those years. Commission members were the first to have an opportunity to study and react to Hubble's studies on the nebulae and their shapes. In the period 1922-1925, Commission 28 members included Slipher, Hubble, Curtis, W.H. Wright (Lick Observatory), S.I. Bailey (Harvard College Observatory), the venerable Irish astronomer J.L.E. Dreyer and France's G. Bigourdan, the Commission's first president from 1919 to 1922. Also on the Commission was England's J.H. Reynolds (Figure 112).

Herein lies a truly great story, in its own right.

The membership of the Commission clearly reads like a "who's who," containing the names of some truly great and pioneering astronomers. But Mr. Reynolds was not an astronomer by profession, at all. Here was someone whose official occupation lay completely outside the scientific arena. He was the son of a subsequent Lord Mayor of Birmingham, whose company was a major producer and supplier of metal products in Birmingham. The company John Reynolds & Sons (Birmingham) Ltd was famous for its production of cut-nails (as opposed to hand-forged nails).

We conducted a fascinating telephone interview with Mr. Dennis Stamps, a retired director of John Reynolds and Sons, who together with his wife have a considerable knowledge of the Reynolds' family history. Mr. Stamps recalls that the production of nails then was an enormously labor intensive process; cut nail factories employed operators and attendants for each machine, and the noise in those factories was deafening. Morphologist Extraordinaire

Shrouds of the Night

186 Figure 112 [419]

The production of nails was a practice not restricted to only the lower classes. In fact, Thomas Jefferson (President of the United States in the period 1801-1809) was proud of his hand made nails. In a letter he once said: "In our private pursuits it is a great advantage that every honest employment is deemed honorable. I am myself a nail maker." From president to the pioneer, nail making in those days was an very important facet of life. In fact, Jefferson was among the first to purchase the newly invented nail-cutting machine in 1796 and produce nails for sale. In pre-1850 America, nails were exceedingly scarce; it is said that people would burn old buildings to sift through the ashes for nails. John Reynolds, born in 1874, clearly had a great financial enterprise at hand from his father's company in England which produced cut nails in enormous numbers. Cut nails dominated the marketplace from about 1820 until 1910, with the advent of the modern wire nail.

John Reynolds became a highly successful and wealthy industrialist. Reynolds purchased a 30-inch mirror made by astronomer Andrew Ainslie Common for the sum of eighty pounds, and he was instrumental in the design of a 30-inch reflector telescope which subsequently was transported to Helwan in Egypt. It was the first large telescope to study objects lying well into the southern skies. The 30-inch Reynolds reflector at Helwan saw "first light" in the year 1907, when the first photographs from that telescope were secured.

In the interim, John Reynolds decided to erect his own observatory at Harborne, by making a mirror of 28-inch diameter with his own hands (Figure 113). No mean feat -a mammoth task indeed, for any amateur astronomer today! The telescope at his home "Low Wood" was obviously cumbersome to use, with Reynolds having to work from a heavy observing platform at the upper "Newtonian focus" of the tube. The 30-inch Common mirror at the Helwan Observatory was eventually upgraded and replaced, and the Common mirror made its way back from Helwan to Birmingham. Reynolds decided to replace his 28-inch mirror with the slightly larger mirror made by Andrew Common.

Reynolds was a man with a very generous spirit, and when light pollution in Birmingham became increasingly problematic, he decided to donate the instrument to the Commonwealth

Shrouds of the Night

188 Figure 113 [419]

Stromlo Inch Reynolds Reflector

Solar Observatory (Figure 114) - later to become the Mount Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories in Canberra, Australia. A steel dome of diameter 26-feet was constructed to house the telescope (Figure 115) and until the 1950s, this telescope was one of the largest operational telescopes in the Southern Hemisphere (Figure 116).

Figures 117-120 demonstrate the beauty of the night skies as captured by coauthor Ken through the eyes of the 30-inch Reynolds telescope.

Figure 115 [420]

Here follow some personal reflections by Ken on using the Reynolds telescope to secure his photographs:

The Reynolds telescope was refurbished in 1971 and emerged as a modern instrument. But when I arrived at Mount Stromlo in 1967, the telescope was still in its original state. The photographic camera at the Newtonian focus, situated at the

Morphologist Extraordinaire

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Telescopes Mastery

Telescopes Mastery

Through this ebook, you are going to learn what you will need to know all about the telescopes that can provide a fun and rewarding hobby for you and your family!

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment