ScopeX 2011 ATM Awards
By Chris Stewart
The buildup to the 10th annual ScopeX was fraught. Weather forecasts alternated between tantalising and terrifying, and when the day dawned it was impossible to know what the turnout would be. Nevertheless the array of telescope makers and their creations was rather good, producing much in the way of new exhibits for the judges to consider. Entrants came from as far afield as Riversdal, cramming huge loads into small vehicles so that the visitors would have the opportunity to examine and discuss their handiwork.
The purpose of the ATM awards is to recognise accomplishment and to spur people to stretch themselves, thereby advancing the intriguing art of amateur telescope making (ATM). By highlighting the merits of certain exhibits, it is hoped that others will adopt the good ideas and perhaps find way to make further improvements. Instruments that previously garnered awards are not generally eligible for another, but significant improvements to those instruments might well. The judges (Dave Blane and I) may consider a component, a complete instrument or a body of work to be worthy. The following characteristics are of particular importance...
Workmanship: Quality of finish, beauty, style, precision
Innovation: Application of new ideas, principles, materials, techniques
Ambitiousness: Difficult optical configuration, grand scope of project, courageous modifications
Ingenuity: Lateral thinking, unusual ways of solving old problems, interesting use of found materials
We are grateful to our sponsors for making it possible to award tangible prizes of particular use to telescope makers. In assigning these, we try to not only make the intrinsic value of the prize commensurate with the magnitude of the recipient’s accomplishment, but also to match their needs. This can be a tough decision.
Pat Kuhn unobtrusively turns out little gems of fine craftsmanship, the embodiment of careful thought. This year he produced two items of interest. The first is a nice binocular mount incorporating an extensible paint roller handle and a ball joint made of PVC plumbing parts and a golfball. The second is a compact barn-
Dave Rick showed what can be done with readily-
Dave Hughes is well known for his ambitious projects. This year he fielded the optical tube assembly of Dall-
Charl Kok is clearly a keen observer. His finely crafted 8” truss-
Louis Viljoen felt the need for a compact instrument that would be easily transportable, but wanted a larger than average aperture to take advantage of the dark sites to which such an instrument may be taken. Accordingly he produced a 9” coffer scope. This design, initiated by the French, allows for all of the components but the two truss poles to be reconfigured into a compact carry box. Clever shaping allows interlocking parts to be efficiently cut from a single sheet of material without wastage. Once assembled, there are no packing components left over – it is all just telescope. Old vinyl LPs were pressed into service for both azimuth bearing and the eyepiece light shield attached to the secondary. For this creation, Louis received a 25mm Televue Plossl eyepiece from Eridanus Optics and a Barlow lens from The Telescope Shop.
Wim Filmater once again travelled far to share his ingenuity with the ATM fraternity. His extremely tall Newtonian needs a stable mount, and the long focal length encourages high powers that really need effective tracking to provide a satisfying observing experience. Both of these requirements are met by a “swing” style equatorial platform. The large triangular footprint, neat polar axis altitude adjustment, auxiliary mounting point for a camera or small scope, curved-
Johan Smit is a stalwart tutor in the ATM class, who has long espoused the virtues of basic, solid designs that are easily realised from readily available materials, but engineered to be a joy to use in the field. As the telescope size increases, weight and stability are particular concerns. Deciding it was time for a 10” f/9 mirror (which makes for an exceptionally long instrument) to catch starlight, a truss tube Dobsonian seemed sensible in order to keep a low centre of gravity. Those who would like such an instrument but are daunted by the prospects of coupling tubing take heart: Johan has proved that plywood trusses not only work, but flat-
We would like to thank everyone who brought something to show -