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The Chet Smith 9½" Telescope

Gary Smith, the son of builder Chet Smith, poses with pieces and the concrete pier from the 9½" telescope
shortly after it was dismantled.

 

In the late 1940s Chet Smith built a 9½" refracting telescope and installed it in the Far West Observatory near Golf Links Road. In the early 1960s due to failing health he could no longer use it. Since he had been a longtime EAS member and former Director of Instruments he offered it to the EAS if we would build a suitable home for it. At a special Board meeting called by Dr. Helen Pillans in March, 1963, the offer was discussed and Helen asserted that EAS should make every effort to accept the telescope and put it to use in their observing and teaching programs.

Following acceptance by the EAS membership at their April meeting, Frank Kettlewell was put in charge of dismantling the telescope and storing it until such time as a suitable building could be built. More than $3,000 was raised to complete the project. In 1965 the Oakland Unified School District agreed to erect a building to house the telescope. The new telescope was also modified so that Kingsley Wightman could use it for school groups.


This photo of Conrad Jung with the 9½" Smith refractor was taken by Carter Roberts in May, 1989.

 

 

After 1977, when these groups could no longer enter the main Observatory building owing to earthquake-hazard restrictions, this telescope became even more important.
For many years this telescope was used for school groups and to supplement the other telescopes on public nights when there were many visitors. With increasing difficulty of opening the roof due to settling of the building, usage of the telescope declined and the instrument has sat idle the last few years.

EAS volunteers dismantled the telescope on September 8, 2000 to prepare it for storage, pending a decision about a new location and new use for this fine instrument that has figured prominently over the past four decades in the Eastbay Astronomical Society's determination to bring an admiration of the night skies to the people of our community.


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