ScopeX 2014 ATM Awards
by Chris Stewart
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 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
Once the selection has been made, the perceived needs of the recipients are as far as possible taken into consideration when deciding the allocation of the available awards. The items awarded are donated by commercial vendors, mostly in lieu of payment for exhibition space at ScopeX. We are grateful for their contributions to this special day.
Yet again we were pleased by the number of worthy examples of new and interesting items on display. In no particular order, here are the awards for 2014.
Peter Rendall has been busy, producing a slew of lightweight wooden tubes and experimenting with variations on the theme of polar disk mounts. His latest involves a metal base which folds up for storage and transportation. The declination assembly in wood sports a plate bearing comprising a Teflon sheet sandwiched between two Formica faces. All very stable, enough for at least a 10-inch Newtonian. Best of all, it can all be built fairly easily without the need for sophisticated tools. In time, it will be motor-driven. For this body of work, he received a Baader Planetarium 3.5mm Eudiascopic eyepiece, courtesy of Eridanus Optics.
Carmel Ives also showed off a polar disk mount, with an A-frame wooden tripod structure that folds flat for transportation. This design is simple to make, quick to set up, and particularly suited to our low latitude. Again it is amenable to retrofitting with an RA drive. This is worth emulating; if you want an equatorial mount and don’t know where to start, this is the one for you. These efforts garnered her an Orion 25mm Plossl eyepiece courtesy of Eridanus Optics.
Johan Smit has also been a busy boy. On display he had - in addition to several examples of his earlier works - a collimator system for binoculars, an “infinity finder” to allow autofocus cameras to get an infinity lock in the dark, and a camera tracking platform sporting a novel curved bolt drive system. Any one of these would have been a worthy contender. For this body of work, he was awarded a 2” GSO 50mm eyepiece from The Telescope Shop.
Michael Möller produced the second Kutter Schiefspiegler to have emerged from the ATM class. Embellished in a distinctly Steampunk style, this instrument sports a coffee can primary mirror tube and a drainpipe secondary tube. The latter incorporates a sliding lid to close the side aperture when not in use. Apart from using common found objects to good effect in true ATM spirit, he also crafted a rather nice wooden tripod worthy of supporting the OTA – a very necessary consideration for a long-focus instrument. And it certainly performs, as many visitors to the evening Star Party will attest. For this, he garnered a 2” GSO 42mm eyepiece from The Telescope Shop.
Eric Slaghuis produced a singularly elegant minimalist Dobsonian; lightweight, yet stable and rigid, from wood. Many passers-by paused for more than a moment to admire the multifaceted wooden tube. And then they came back again for a second look. Seasoned ATMers did more than pause, they lingered covetously. For this beautiful handiwork, Eric received a 2” GSO 30mm eyepiece from The Telescope Shop.
Dave Hughes took an ancient derelict optical tube assembly which had been donated to the ATM class, and turned it into something special. Recognising that it followed the style of Texereau, he went the whole hog to resurrect it in a way that would have made even Texereau proud. This entailed refurbishing and modifying the tube, refiguring the mirror, making new mirror cell and spider, building a mount from scratch, and so forth. In the end, only the wood of the tube, the glass of the mirror and the altitude trunnions could be said to remain of the original. A super effort, with an excellent steel tripod/pier, it was much admired. For this, he was awarded a 2” Baader ND filter, courtesy of The Telescope Shop.
Again, thank you to our kind sponsors for the prizes. Well done to everyone who participated. Thanks for spending many hours patiently explaining and showing off your instruments to the visitors under the blazing sun – and then wowing them with views of the night sky in the evening. Each year brings something new and sometimes themes emerge. This time, several innovations on show are likely to spark minor revolutions, i.e.: polar disk mounts, DC motor drives, curved bolt sectors and autofocus assistance for astrophotography. These advances to the art may seem small, but are certainly not insignificant. What will we see next year?
ATM Judges: Chris Stewart, Dave Blane, Chris Forder