Go to the archives

Build your own telescope

Ever wanted to build your own telescope but don't know where to start? Well fear not! You too can build your own telescope in an afternoon! Not just any telescope either: a mm-wave dish, complete with a transporter to get it up the mountain. Interested? Here are the plans for building your own ALMA antenna. Thanks to Rob at Jodrell for the link.

Don't fancy that? How about a model of a NASA Deep Space Network antenna? Or Hubble? The James-Webb telescope? Spitzer? The Nobeyama Radio Observatory also have a stack of models to build, including VERA, Subaru, VSOP and Solar-B (the text is in Japanese, but if you're an experienced modeller you can figure it out pretty easily).

I spent a lot of time building cardboard models of stuff when I was younger. There was one of those weekly magazines that built up into a science encyclopedia and each issue came with a model. I built a space shuttle, a windmill, a submarine (complete with torpedo tubes, and torpedoes!), a Formula One car, a motorbike, a catamaran (which I varnished so it floated in the bath), a glider, a sundial and plenty of others.

I've created a few of my own models too, over the years. A couple of years ago I turned a Xerox box into a Tardis, and (by request) turned another one into a wheel clamp for a prank, I ended up with a reputation for being able to "make anything out of a Xerox box". I even started working on a cardboard model of the Lovell telescope (not involving boxes!) , but I never had time to finish it...

The rebuilt MkV model
The rebuilt fully functional MkV model - Alastair, Mark and I spent three months re-building this in our spare timeCREDIT: Mike Peel
If you're feeling really ambitious, you can always try something more complex. Together with Alastair Gunn (Jodrell's VLBI guru) and Mark Roberts (one of the telescope controllers), I spent three months rebuilding a model of the MkV telescope - the telescope that never was. It was designed by Bernard Lovell and Charles Husband and would have been 400 feet across if it had been built. The propsed site was at Meifod in Wales, in a natural valley which would have sheilded the telescope from a lot of the wind - a major problem with large telescopes.

The model had been constructed years ago to demonstrate the concept to funders, but had fallen into disrepair when the project was cancelled. It had been rebuilt before, but then left to rot in a warehouse on the Wirral for many years. When we got hold of it it was in a pretty sorry state and many weekends were spent with a soldering iron trying to fix the main structure. The electricians even got the ancient drive system going, so we could even drive it. There were suggestions about putting a 30 GHz receiver on it and slaving it to the Lovell, but somehow I don't think the surface accuracy would have been good enough!

Posted by Megan on Tuesday 03rd Feb 2009 (03:43 UTC) | Add a comment | Permalink


* required fields
NOTE: Your email address will not be displayed on the website. The box is only there if you want to provide your email address to the blog author. It will certainly not be passed on to any other websites or organisations. Personally I wouldn't bother adding it if I were you.

Powered by Marzipan!
Last updated: Sunday, 22-Jun-2014 23:32:13 BST