Friends of the Zeiss
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2004 November 12
Ms. Anne V. Lewis, President
Board of Directors
10 Children’s Way -
Re: Construction activity related to Buhl Planetarium Observatory
Dear Ms. Lewis:
On Saturday, in answer to a question, Children’s Museum Executive Director Jane Werner told me that current plans are to construct a new Board Room in the location of the original Buhl Planetarium Observatory.
As you may know, I was Coordinator of the Buhl Planetarium Astronomical Observatory from 1986-1991. The Observatory housed a rather unique instrument, a 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope, which is the second largest, of its unique type, in the world. Further, unlike most other observatories, during the colder weather Buhl’s Observatory permitted families to view astronomical objects in a heated Observing Room, while the telescope and “Siderostat” mirror remained in the unheated Telescope Room.
I know the Observatory space very well. Friends of the Zeiss would ask that the Children’s Museum Board of Directors reconsider converting this space into a Board Room for the following reasons:
1) The Buhl Planetarium and
The Library and the Buhl Planetarium Observatory are roughly the same size. Hence, there would be no real advantage to converting the Observatory to a Board Room when Buhl Planetarium’s original Board Room could be used by the Children’s Museum Board of Directors.
2) The Buhl Planetarium Observatory was specially-designed as an Observatory, including a roll-away roof, and two piers specially designed to prevent vibrations in the astronomical image (one pier holds the telescope while the other pier holds the “Siderostat” mirror).
Note that the Telescope Room was specifically-designed to receive neither building heat nor air-conditioning, to prevent disruption of the astronomical image.
3) With the cancellation of The Carnegie Science Center’s proposed $90 million expansion project, the original Buhl Planetarium Observatory is now the only location which could easily and inexpensively house an operating 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope. Presently, this telescope is dismantled and in storage at The Carnegie Science Center warehouse.
When retiring earlier this year, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh President Ellsworth Brown told a
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter: "The possibility of a high-profile expansion now at the science center is remote." So, any expansion of The Carnegie Science Center, in the foreseeable future, would be small. Funding limitations
Ms. Anne V. Lewis 2004 November 12 Page 2 of 2
and/or the lower height of a
building addition would probably preclude the use of the 10-inch
Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope. And, this telescope cannot be mounted on
With the conversion of the
Buhl Planetarium Observatory into a Board Room, it is possible, perhaps even
likely, that this telescope will never be used again, due to the rather unique
facility needed to house a Siderostat-type Telescope. The cost may be
prohibitive to recreate the Buhl Planetarium Observatory in another location.
Certainly, since cancellation of the
We understand that plans of the current Children’s Museum management do not include the use of planetarium or observatory equipment. We are asking that construction activity not preclude the reinstallation of the 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at some future date. A future Children’s Museum management may wish to reinstall the telescope for use. Or, if the Children’s Museum moves into a different building decades from now, there may be an interest in reinstalling the 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope in the building.
Although much of the original planetarium infrastructure was removed from Buhl Planetarium’s original Theater of the Stars, the 65-foot diameter dome and the historic Westinghouse Worm-Gear Elevator (Buhl was the world’s first planetarium to be placed on an elevator) remain. Hence, it would not be a huge expense to reinstall the Zeiss II Planetarium Projector sometime in the future.
We are asking that the original Buhl Planetarium Observatory be maintained in a similar way, so reinstallation of the 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at a future date could be accomplished without a huge expense.
Friends of the Zeiss respectfully asks, and would appreciate, your kind consideration of this matter.
Glenn A. Walsh
P.S. FYI -- As you may know, astronomical observations require precise timing. As Coordinator of Buhl Planetarium’s Astronomical Observatory, I also served as a timekeeper for Buhl Planetarium, as I always keep my digital watch exact to the second, corrected nearly every day using time signals from one of two shortwave radio stations: WWV, Fort Collins, Colorado (operated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. Department of Commerce) or CHU, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (operated by the National Research Council of Canada).
So, for the record, the ribbon-cutting of the newly-expanded Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh took place on Saturday Morning, November 6, A.D. 2004 at precisely 10:06:36 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Copy: Jane Werner, Executive Director, Children’s
Bill Peduto, Chairman of the Committee on General Services, Technology and the Arts,
Council of the City of
Members of Friends of the Zeiss