Brashear Telescope Restoration

The Brashear Telescope is a masterpiece of the Victorian age technology. It stands 9 m tall with a refracting lens of 18 inches (45.72 cm) across. And it is getting a new home in Tekapo, New Zealand.

The Brashear Telescope was built in 1894.

The mount was built by the company Warner & Swasey Co while the 18-inch lens was made by the amazing lens maker John Brashear (also giving the telescope its name). This telescope was designed to look at the planets and it did give us some of the first close looks at our neighbouring worlds.

The lens for the Brashear Telescope. Photo credit: Dallas Poll

It initially had its home in the Flower Observatory, owned by the University of Pennsylvania in the USA where it was used for over 50 years. Some key astronomers to use this telescope during that time were Percival Lowell, who popularised space science and wrote about canals on Mars (these were disproved then the Mariner spacecraft took images of Mars) and Walter Leight to study Saturn’s rings.

When the Flower Observatory closed, the telescope was packed up and then donated to the new Mount John Observatory in New Zealand.

Unfortunately, for various reasons the Brashear Telescope ended up just waiting in boxes for a very long time, until Earth and Sky planed for the Brashear Telescope to be the centerpiece of its new Astronomy centre. The telescope was to be fully restored as part of this project.

All the different parts of the Brashear Telescope when they first arrived for restoration. photo credit: Dallas Poll

Dallas Poll, a jeweller by trade was given this task.

He cleaned off all the rust, put in new motors and gave the telescope a new coat of paint. You can see photos of the restoration on his Flickr account Dallas Poll Photography.

half of the telescope tube almost fully restored. We are looking at the end where the eye piece will go.Photo credit: Dallas Poll

In Earth and Sky’s new Astronomy Centre, the Brashear Telescope has found a new home, inside a dome that is fully operational and designed to withstand earthquakes.

There will be glass walls on the interior of the dome so from inside the Astronomy centre you will be able to view the telescope. And you will be able to see go inside to see the telescope up close.

The Brashear Telescope is now waiting to go into its new home in Tekapo. The Astronomy centre is expected to open in mid 2019.