The Boller and Chivens Forty Inch Telescope


Original Use

This telescope was originally located at Northwestern University at the Lindheimer Astronomical Research Center. Lindheimer was created in 1967 with Boller and Chivens 16" and 40" telescopes, the latter "financed primarily by a gift from the A. Montgomery Ward Foundation"

End of Original Use

Northwestern destroyed the observatory in 1995. Shortly before the destruction, they offered the university's sixteen inch and forty inch reflectors to anyone who would remove them from the building. Lowell Observatory dispatched a crew to Northwestern and rescued the telescopes. Robert A Lentz has a page about the demise of the observatory at his web-site, alas the links to the Northwestern University newspaper no longer work.

New Life

The 16 inch telescope was installed on Mars Hill (the historic center of Lowell Observatory) and is used for visitor nights and outreach.

The 40 inch telescope remained in storage at Lowell for ten years.

I had seen the original Northwestern ad for "free telescopes" on the internet back in 1995, but was not in a position to do anything. During conversations with Robert Millis, director of Lowell, in 2005, I learned that the 40 inch was still in storage, and that Millis had a handshake agreement that Perth Observatory would install and operate the telescope if Lowell could refurbish it, computerise it, and deliver it to Perth. (Perth and Lowell had partnered earlier on a southern site for a Lowell telescope -- a twenty-four inch.)

I, through the Robert Martin Ayers Sciences Fund decided to fund the refurbishment. The telescope was refurbished (and the control system entirely rebuilt) at Lowell during 2006-2007 with a "first re-light" in Perth planned for early 2008.

The arrangement was Lowell Observatory supplies the telescope, Perth Observatory supplies the site and buildings and day-to-day operating expenses, Perth and Lowell share the usage.

Construction at Perth

You can read about the telescope from the Perth viewpoint, and read their construction-blog, at their website. [As of July 2014 this is now a 404]

Alas after the activities of 2007-2008 documented at the Perth website, the construction of the observatory buldings that will house the telescope stopped in mid-2008 (you can compare the last images from June 2008 with the current webcam image if it's daytime in Perth).

There seem to have been major changes/difficulties at Perth Observatory.

The government of Western Australia, the ultimate source of funds, is doing very well due to the Australian mining boom, so "tight budget" does not seem to be the reason. We suspect major differences within the organizational structure (there have been resignations), but from halfway around the world it is hard to be sure.

So after a year of attempting to understand and deal with the changes, the agreement was cancelled. Alas.

Post Perth

So the rebuilt Boller and Chivens telescope remained in storage in Arizona, awaiting a home with a roof.

As of early-2011, we are looking for a replacement southern hemisphere partnership. Anybody want to share the use of a Boller and Chivens one meter telescope at your good southern site?

After over a year of looking, Lowell Observatory found a home for the telescope! It is not in the southern hemisphere alas, but "beggers can't be choosers" and there isn't a big supply of unoccupied and available domes large enough for the B&C one meter.

The telescope is now (early 2014) at the Table Mountain Facility of JPL in California, and has been installed and is undergoing testing.



I am interested in all aspects of "making telescope time available to the smaller players, both researchers and members of the educatonal system" and would be delighted to discuss them with you.

I can be reached via email as "bob" at this dot-org domain, or at