ScopeX 2015 ATM Awards
By ATM Judges Chris Stewart and Dave Blane
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 ways 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. Each year brings something new and sometimes themes emerge. 2015 was the year "string" telescopes firmly came of age. There were also a number of experimental tracking platforms, binocular stands, and small commercial refractors reworked to make them actually usable. We expect these trends to continue. As usual, there were numerous small details which reflect great ingenuity and creative thought.
In no particular order, here are the awards for 2015...
ASSA Pretoria Centre, represented by Bosman Olivier (Chairman) and Johan Smit (Curator of Instruments), received a 12V power supply courtesy of Elemod. The PSU contains a 12V 7AH battery, with built in intelligent battery management & charging circuitry. It features several outputs, including 5V USB ports to charge portable electronics, as well as an LED white and red utility light. The Pretoria Centre has always supported ScopeX vigorously, and every year they field a number of instruments worthy of consideration. This year there were many interesting innovations, with a lot of cross-pollination of ideas due to the usual collaborative/sharing nature of ATM. It is expected that the PSU will find much use in the years to come, in their various viewing excursions and public outreach events.
Gerhard Bloemhof created an eye-catching unique instrument yclept "C Star", featuring beautiful workmanship, intriguing design elements, an overall systems approach and attention to detail. The unusual rocker and a combination Crayford + helical focuser carved from a solid block of aluminium were notable components. Gerhard received a TPO 50mm Superview 2" eyepiece for his work, courtesy of OPT.
Eric Slaghuis has embraced the "why be normal?" approach to ATM. This year, he brought the optical tube assembly for his Yolo schiefspiegler. The Yolo features a warping harness used to mechanically distort one of the mirrors, in order to tune out the astigmatism introduced by having tilted mirrors. The tube comprised several barrel sections fashioned from strips of wood. Even the 2" Crayford focuser drawtube is made in this way. For his excellent workmanship and willingness to tackle the unusual advanced optical design, Eric garnered a TPO 50mm Superview 2" eyepiece, courtesy of OPT.
Joos Bloem produced an elegantly simple twin-strut Dobsonian. The top end acts as a lid for the mirror box. It features a combination light baffle / spider in the form of a thin-section length of tubing, which drops into the mirror box when stored. The primary mirror is front adjustable for ease of collimation in the field. The top end connects to the strut tubes via aluminium channels, to ensure rigid coupling and repeatable positioning on assembly. The overall simplicity and the use of commonly available materials lend the design to replication by those wishing a compact, transportable telescope. In recognition, Joos was awarded a 2" TPO ED 2x Barlow courtesy of OPT.
Chris Curry built an ultra-compact skeletal f/4 Dobsonian with a carbon fibre spider. Where the utmost portability is required, the base can sit on any available surface – the eyepiece is at a comfortable height for use by younger children or by an adult sitting cross-legged on the ground. A laser designator obviates the need to crane one’s neck to a finder telescope. An optional tripod base lifts the scope to a suitable height for comfortable use by older children, or by adults seated on a stool. Superb optics give impressively crisp and detailed images. We trust the 2" TPO ED 2x Barlow he received courtesy of OPT will help with Lunar and planetary viewing.
Again, thank you to our kind sponsors for the prizes, and a big well done to everyone who participated. Thanks for spending many hours patiently explaining and showing off your instruments to the visitors throughout this very chilly day – and then wowing them with views of the night sky in the evening. We look forward to seeing more innovation next year.