by Dave Skitt
It was a gloomy day on January 21, 2017, when Bill Murray, my wife, Jennifer, and I, made a trip up to AAAP’s former observatory within the UACNJ consortium of observatories in Jenny Jump State Forest. Yes, you read correctly, AAAP’s former observatory. You see, earlier in the week and after much discussion, the AAAP board had voted to change the clubs’ status within UACNJ from “Supporting Member with Observatory” to just “Supporting Member”. Unfortunately, the “observatory” had become, as one board member put it, “just a shed” since the telescope inside was no longer operable. The goal of our trip was to remove the non-operating instrument and return the shed keys to UACNJ.
Removing the 12 ½”, F6 Newtonian built by late club member, John W. H. Simpson, and the Telescope World/Thomas Mathis Company equatorial mount, seemed simple enough. Just loosen a handful of nuts and bolts and carry everything out. First off was the OTA. It was considerably lighter than its former self as Bill had removed the beefy mirror, focuser and assorted accessories years before. Next were the mount counterweights, which slipped off their shaft with ease, seemingly relieved from being suspended motionless in space for so long.
At this point, the mount must have become aware of some looming fate in the astronomy scrap heap, as the bolts securing the latitude adjustment turnbuckle to the pier refused to give. However, after a few squirts of penetrating oil mixed in with a little patience and some sweet talk regarding the future of the telescope, the bolts finally let loose. The rest of the mount and pier relented with little effort, despite their mass.
What will become of the notable telescope and mount remains to be seen. They are currently being stored in my backyard shed. The hope and desire amongst those tasked with the dismantling is to find a home for them alongside the telescopes’ namesake observatory, the John W.H. Simpson observatory in WCSP. One option being considered is to reconfigure the OTA onto a mobile, Dobsonian style mount housed in its own small observatory. The scope and mirror would be refurbished and the Dobsonian mount would be all tricked out with digital setting circles, Wi-Fi module and laser pointer. These would give the scope near go-to simplicity and accuracy when coupled with a handheld tablet. Who knows – maybe we could even add tracking capabilities! A new era of 21st century observing could be in store for the former Jenny Jump observatory telescope.