An Immortal Telescope: The Story of R.S. Newall Refractor

The astronomical telescopes were always impressive scientific instruments. With them humans acquired our knowledge about the universe.

This 25 min Planetarium show is dedicated to the once largest refracting telescope. Made by Cooke & Sons in 1869, the famous Newall telescope had many ups and downs in its life. It was first housed in Newall’s residence at Gateshead, afterwards it was donated to Cambridge University and now it is still alive and active at Athens Observatory 147 years after its birth.

The show refers to the value of the old astronomical instruments and travels the audience through the fascinating history of the Newall telescope, from its construction up to now with the use of immersive visualizations and live action footage.

 

 

 

 

 

  • About Newall Telescope

The Newall telescope is named after Robert Stirling Newall (1812-1889), an amateur astronomer, who, due to his successful entrepreneurial activities in the field of steam engines and telegraphic wires, became rather affluent.


In 1862, Newall discovers by change two large-sized crystals made of crown and flint glass, produced by Chance of Birmigham. He bought these and entrusted

T. Cooke and Sons with the construction of the biggest refracting telescope of its time. The telescope was completed in 1869.


Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, Newall himself did not used the telescope much.

 

 His son, Hugh Frank Newall, wishing to see the telescope utilised he made an offer to the University of Cambridge. He offered to assume the necessary cost, and to work for without payment as the main observer responsible for the telescope. The University accepted his terms and the telescope moved to Cambridge at the end of 1891.


From that year onwards and until 1911, Newall conducted a remarkable series of observations, mainly spectroscopic ones, with good results. F.J.M. Stratton continued his work after 1911 and the telescope knew days of glory until 1930.

 

Thus by the 1950s, it was hardly used and its future appeared gloomy. Its dome was defective by construction and due to its prolonged usage, it was rather hard to use. Given the situation, the management of the Observatory at Cambridge decided to donate the telescope to any Observatory that would be interested in having it.


The National Observatory of Athens became aware of this in 1955 and a team of scientists was sent to Cambridge in order to evaluate the Newall telescope. The Greek scientists decided that the telescope, though not utilised systematically, did not appear disused. Thus in 1957, the final decision to accept the donation was taken and the area of the “Koufos” hill bellow Pendeli mountain was designated for the installation of the telescope.

 

 

 

 

 

The Newall telescope is named after Robert Stirling Newall (1812-1889), an amateur astronomer, who, due to his successful entrepreneurial activities in the field of steam engines and telegraphic wires, became rather affluent.


In 1862, Newall discovers by change two large-sized crystals made of crown and flint glass, produced by Chance of Birmigham. He bought these and entrusted

T. Cooke and Sons with the construction of the biggest refracting telescope of its time. The telescope was completed in 1869.


Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, Newall himself did not used the telescope much.

 

 His son, Hugh Frank Newall, wishing to see the telescope utilised he made an offer to the University of Cambridge. He offered to assume the necessary cost, and to work for without payment as the main observer responsible for the telescope. The University accepted his terms and the telescope moved to Cambridge at the end of 1891.


From that year onwards and until 1911, Newall conducted a remarkable series of observations, mainly spectroscopic ones, with good results. F.J.M. Stratton continued his work after 1911 and the telescope knew days of glory until 1930.

 

Thus by the 1950s, it was hardly used and its future appeared gloomy. Its dome was defective by construction and due to its prolonged usage, it was rather hard to use. Given the situation, the management of the Observatory at Cambridge decided to donate the telescope to any Observatory that would be interested in having it.


The National Observatory of Athens became aware of this in 1955 and a team of scientists was sent to Cambridge in order to evaluate the Newall telescope. The Greek scientists decided that the telescope, though not utilised systematically, did not appear disused. Thus in 1957, the final decision to accept the donation was taken and the area of the “Koufos” hill bellow Pendeli mountain was designated for the installation of the telescope.

 

 

 

 

 

Duration - 25 min

Target audience - All age groups upwards of 12 years

Format - Fulldome

Orientation - Unidirectional

Resolution - 1k, 2k, 3k, 4k

Production - Theofanis Matsopoulos

Languages - English, Greek (ask for other languages)

Price - Contact

Preview - Contact or Visit Fulldome Database (login required)

 

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© 2020 by Theofanis Matsopoulos

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