Astronomical instruments, parts of an astrograph, metal, made by Morts Dock and Engineering Company, the Atlas Engineering Company and W I Masters, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia and by Troughton and Simms, London, England, 1887-1890, used at Sydney Observatory, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
"The important place which photography has now assumed as a means of promoting astronomical discovery and research, demands some record should be preserved of the instruments, more especially of those used for carrying out the great work which was the outcome of the Congress of the world's astronomers which met at Paris, in 1887." H. C. Russell
In 1887 astronomers from around the world embarked a massive new enterprise; known as the Carte du Ciel (Mapping the Stars) project it involved photographing and measuring the stars in both hemispheres. Australia was actively involved in the project with observatories in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth keen to participate in this international project. Each observatory was allocated a zone of the sky and was expected to record it using instruments of a standard pattern.
British institutions preferred to patronize a British maker Howard Grubb of Dublin who took on the work of constructing seven of the astrographs needed. Melbourne and Perth requested Grubb telescopes but Sydney only wanted the lens. This was because Russell believed there was now enough expertise in the colony to finish the rest of the instrument and perhaps also because he was aware of the pressure Grubb would be under to complete his orders on time. As it was the equipment for Melbourne and Sydney, ordered in 1888, arrived in 1890. The Perth telescope arrived in 1897.
The casing and mounts for the 13-inch refracting telescope which housed the Grubb lens were made in New South Wales. This illustrates how the skills of local manufactures had developed since Australia's formative yeas when all instruments were ordered from Europe or America. The making of the casing and mounts for the telescope was divided between two local Sydney firms, Mort's Dock and Engineering Co. and the Atlas Engineering Co. The clockwork microscopes, all the smaller parts and the putting together of the instrument were all done by Mr. W. I. Masters, the instrument maker at The Sydney Observatory.
However there were still some aspects of instrument making which were beyond the skills of Australian manufacturers. One of these was the making of high quality lenses and as stated this led Russell to recommend the purchase of a photographic objective from Sir Howard Grubb which arrived some time after the casing and fittings had been completed. Another part which could not be made locally was a wheel which needed to be marked with very fine graduations which had to be made using the dividing engine owned by Troughton and Simms of London.
This astrographic telescope had two tubular casings; one of sheet steel for the photographic lens and camera plates and the other with an eyepiece was used by the observer as a guide (H10374). A sun diagonal or Herschel wedge (H10025) was also used in conjunction with this guiding instrument.
As the main part of the telescope was completed before the arrival of the photographic lens from Grubb Russell took some preliminary photographs using a 6-inch Dallmeyer portrait lens (H10186) in his possession. Using this lens Russell took photographs of the Milky Way and did some further experiments with stellar photography.
Only parts of this instrument remain but they are significant for the role they played in the international Carte du Ciel (Mapping the Stars) project and the fact that they were once part of one of the earliest astrograph's constructed in Australia.
Russell, H. C., Description of the Star Camera at The Sydney Observatory, Alfred James Kent, Government Printer, 1923, p.4
King, H., C., The History of the Telescope, Dover Publications, New York, 1955, p.300
Glass, I. S., Victorian Telescope Makers; the Lives and Letters of Thomas and Howard Grubb, Institute of Physics Publishing, Bristol and Philadelphia, 1997
Geoff Barker, August, 2007
The components of the astrograph were made by between 1887 and 1890 by Morts Dock and Engineering Company, Atlas Engineering Company and smaller parts were made by Mr W I Masters, the instrument maker at Sydney Observatory. The graduated wheel was made by Troughton and Simms in London, England.