“Of course, UFOs are!”: night modern astrologers

The scandal surrounding the Pulkovo Observatory of St. Petersburg once again raised the question of how to “cling to life” ancient Observatory in big cities. The observers of the starry sky, despite far from imperfect working conditions, demonstrate amazing dedication and willingness to continue study no matter what.

In Moscow, the last Bastion of the oldest Russian companies of astronomers-professionals, surveyors and lovers of astronomy, the Astronomic-geodetic Association, occupies a small basement in the centre of Moscow. Here to collect and test telescopes, exchange news and discoveries — a long-standing tradition does not change from decade to decade. In addition, the “inhabitants” of the basement has revived from the decline it is not one of Moscow monument of history of astronomy: through their efforts, has been restored antique telescopes of the Observatory of the Palace of culture at the plant ZIL and Presnya laboratory of the State astronomical Institute named after P. K. Sternberg, Moscow state University. Correspondent “MK” visited the famous monastery of the Moscow “astrologers” and find out why homemade telescopes still can give odds to purchase and why the task of restoring the old Observatory rests on the shoulders of Moscow enthusiasts.


photo: pixabay.com

“Light” from the basement

The historic cellar of the division of Amateur telescopes, Association of astronomers and surveyors is located in the center of Moscow on Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya street. In the Soviet years here there was a Central Council of the all-Union astronomic-geodesic society, formed in 1932 and bringing together professionals and Amateurs from across the country. During its heyday, the organization existed as a part of 77 branches and 4 thousand actual participants, but in the 90‑ies most of the organizations closed. For today of the once vast and influential organisation was only one division, Amateur telescopes, with a total of 32 permanent staff. These people continue a tradition started in the years of the hopeless Soviet deficit of astronomical instruments when the telescope was not to get, enthusiasts have produced machines with their hands and quickly learned to make the tools, not inferior to industrial.

In the basement on Sadovo-Kudrinskaya astronomers met since the late 60‑ies of the last century, but in the early 90s, the room had to leave: it affected telescopically left without the workshop. The activities of the Department of AGO and was resumed only in 2006, when they managed to return to a familiar wall, and is still ongoing. Now “astronomical” the basement is known among the Russian “stargazers” because here any novice or experienced researcher can check the serviceability of the telescope or even from scratch to make an improvised with like-minded members of the community have free.

— When a person steps on the “slippery slope” of astronomy, he initially thinks that he for all purposes is a great compact telescope — laughing party of AGO Eugene hamsters. But telescopes as camera lenses, each task needs its own. One for close-up studies, another for long… Now in my house there are a Park of telescopes, a few tens of tubes. Of course, this dedication to the important role played “the basement”.


photo: Natalia Steinert
Members of the Astronomic-geodetic enterprises in the historic basement.

Most resident “astrologers” is like a huge workshop all available space crammed with machines for machining of telescopes on the shelves — cans of paint and lacquers, on tables here and there laid out the future of lenses and mirrors — big pieces of dull frosted glass. The whole wall of one of the rooms is a long “shadow bench” the device to check the quality and optics tuning devices (in the “deranged” telescope, the image may not produce the desired image quality, float and double). Another such design, but two times less, is in a room that serves as the main gathering point of AGO. There is also a small interferometer (a device for determining the shape and technical characteristics optics): according to astronomers in Russia free access to such devices no one else has, even though the interferometers may accurately identify all strengths and weaknesses of optics.

— The room is historic, “sacred”, — said President of the AGO Fidel Gorbunov. — We managed to recreate the unique atmosphere that was here before. Us little: someone comes, someone goes, old people die, young enough — she now likes to work with his hands. However, one or two new people a year normally appears. But on checking the telescopes we bring a continuous stream, and if someone wants to learn, for example, to improve the optics — we are happy to teach.

Among the members of the Association are teachers and writers, climbers and sailors — not to mention passionate science communicators. The youngest of the participants, about thirty years old, the oldest over sixty. There is in this small community and its legendary characters: for example, in honor of the honorable Vice-President of VAGO Victor Abalakina officially named one of the asteroids.


photo: Natalia Steinert
Master in optics, AGO, science fiction writer Alexander Gromov and the workpiece for optics from smalla special crystal glass.

Between science and art

The most popular movement improvised telescopes purchased in the Soviet years, when the telescope was impossible to buy anywhere except a few uchkollektor (they bought and distributed telescopes in schools). However, as remembers Fidel Gorbunov, for Amateur astronomers these “treasures” were generally not available: uchkollektor accept payment only by Bank transfer, and Bank accounts except for passbook, while ordinary citizens have been impossible. And then there were the craftsmen who produced telescopes with his own hands, and then shared technological findings with peers: over time, from a hobby it turned into a real art. Amateur astronomers have been reviewing all the production processes of manufacturing of telescopes, but only in home or club environment — then there were the books devoted to Amateur telescope building] and containing detailed instructions.

By the way, the traditional optical telescope is a fairly simple system, the main parts are the lens and the eyepiece, but it requires perfect handling and balance (or alignment) components. Have lens telescopes (refractors) as the lens used, the lens or lenses, and reflectors (reflecting telescopes) in the role of the lens acts as a concave mirror. “Master in optics” in the AGO considered science fiction writer Alexander Gromov, for many years, including in the community and willing to transmit knowledge to future generations of astronomers.

— We are not crushed by the production plan and understand how long it takes the mirror, so much of him and give, — explains thunders. — The result is optics better than store bought. If people come to us who want a homemade telescope, we show them how to do it. In addition, optics, hand-made, can be modified and industrial telescope — he will only benefit from this.


photo: Natalia Steinert
The restoration of the old seven-inch telescope. is now in the final stage.

Tubes for telescopes for Amateur astronomers or order, or they make themselves: the more that technology allows to produce not a solid “tunnels” and openwork design (farm). As Gromov said, the possibility of basement AGO with all its machines and tools allow, in particular, to make the telescope optical design which invented Isaac Newton in the mid-seventeenth century. But often in the basement come the people who want to check the quality of the optics and settings of your instrument of industrial production. In this respect the Amateur astronomers unequivocal opinion: want to make good — DIY. By the way, the other party AGO, the Moscow teacher of physics and astronomy Vladimir Gusev is not only restored, but also created from scratch an exact copy of the lost parts for the old Moscow telescopes. In particular, for the German refractor of Reinfelder and Hertel from DC with the factory Likhachev Gusev restored wooden pipe and fabricated brass layout of the logo is stolen rare nameplate. As said by the astronomers of the finished product even a connoisseur would be difficult to distinguish from the originals!

— Mostly I work on wood, — said Gusev. — Wooden pipe telescope in the Palace of culture ZIL was restored mostly I and Krasnopresnenskaya Observatory GAISh helping to restore a seven-inch telescope: there was generally very much from the recovery steps to the observation platform to small branded detail on the tool. I myself got here by accident, although the child was very fond of astronomy: a hobby was renewed in 2006 when it opened again astronomical the basement. I wanted to be an artist, and the skills that I have time to really came in handy here.

As said one of the most active participants of AGO — Vadim Vorotilin, astronomy he got interested in a very long time: whether in the sixth, or fifth grade. According to the books (which wasn’t much) he began to study the night sky and all the time wanted her own telescope. Its Victor gave his father, in some unimaginable way leaving behind all the formalities of acquisition of astronomical instruments. The hobby has evolved, and now Vorotilin not imagine my life without studying deep sky — deep sky.

— Galaxies, globular clusters, gaseous nebulae, that’s what I mostly study — says Vadim. Of course, sometimes I don’t mind and the moon to see. In the field of Amateur astronomy I’m more of an observer who is engaged in the manufacturing of telescopes, but I like to explore the night sky. By the way, about UFOs: of course they are, but what is presented in all sorts of fabrications, the truth does not match. Not all unusual thing in the night sky, is a UFO — especially now that nobody even knows what it is.

For example, I once saw a UFO — adds Alexander Gromov — but I’m not saying it was a spaceship! It was an object I couldn’t identify, but I thought and thought and came to the conclusion that it most likely was a balloon, a kind of illuminated by the sun.

— I had two UFO sightings! — included in the conversation Eugene hamsters. First: I was standing one morning on the balcony, I see a star, and she lights up, then disappears and stars at that time already there are no. Immediately grabbed the telescope: it turned out that it was just a plane coming in my direction, and the light from it is so blinking. Or another case: look — high-high in the sky that is flying, in flight and changes its shape. What do you think? Look through the telescope — was, a bunch of balls. Not all that’s weird, really really weird.

Says Fidel Gorbunov, “basement” activity participants AGO — a fascinating hobby, but they wanted to do and more meaningful for local astronomy things. So there was one more direction of activity of Department — restoration of the historic telescopes in the Metropolitan observatories.


photo: Natalia Steinert
Nazarovskaya tower.

There would be no happiness…

Two “wards” of the AGA is located at the Observatory of the State astronomical Institute named after Sternberg (aka Krasnopresnenskaya Observatory Sternberg astronomical Institute). Here, among the small wooden houses and lush greenery catches the eye high bright building — Nazarovo tower. Climbing up the spiral staircase, you find yourself in a small Observatory: there separated from heaven, the double dome is a telescope, that the members of the Association gathered on the pieces. Some of his parts were found nearby, on the territory of the Observatory, and was used to restore the machine, but some details had to be made independently.

Is a seven-inch telescope of the German company. — says Fidel Gorbunov. — In our country such things are counted on the fingers. Unlike the telescope in the Palace of culture ZIL, he recovered almost from scratch and is now ready for 90%. The dome of the Observatory we also practically rebuilt: he can turn, but the mechanism to open and close the sash, still need to test and debug. The first time we came here seven years ago, the dome was all ragged, but the telescope was not. But then one of the older employees of SAI remembered that the device — whether before the war or in the early postwar years — was dismantled because the Observatory fell through the floor. We decided that he could still be somewhere nearby.

The leadership Institute named after P. K. Sternberg allowed the astronomers to conduct a search for telescope on the territory of the SAI, and the old camera soon, really was — or rather, there were parts of it. They were in a wooden shed still pre-revolutionary construction near nazarovskiy tower, under piles of trash and old heavy furniture. Participants the AGO had to organize a special work day to clean up the mess and literally dig out of the ground preserved parts of the apparatus.

We restored this telescope based on its surviving photographs and our own understanding of how it should be arranged, explains Gorbunov. Something had to be added: for example, we put extra lead loads, because we were not able to perfectly balance the telescope. But it’s not our fault: the astronomer Witold Zereski, who led the development of the Observatory in the late nineteenth century, he was the mad money has written this tool from Germany, ordered the top part of the pipe slightly longer than necessary, it was easier to observe.

Work on the restoration of the Observatory was conducted in the whole world: someone was helping all the time, someone came up only once or twice. Institute partially funded the restoration (for example, the external restoration work on the dome of the tower has fulfilled the old masters invited SAI), but the money is categorically not enough. However, the enthusiasm of the astronomers were so contagious that the purchase of the missing parts the refractor “throw off” even the employees of the Institute.

When we needed parts, we were helped by the staff of the Observatory — despite the fact that they receive very small salaries, — tells Humpbacks. Someone even my retirement money gave! For example, helped us to order the two parts of the mount of a telescope: I drove from power bronze and genuine iron wedge of the nineteenth century. Each of them cost about 80 thousand rubles.

“Big brother” of the telescope in Nazarovskaya tower is located in the main building of the Institute named after P. K. Sternberg. There, in the center a large round hall of the Observatory, back in 1900 was installed a giant camera — 15‑inch telescope-astrograph, made by the famous German engineer and the astronomer Johann Georg Repsold. Thanks to not one, but two tubes of this apparatus allowed the simultaneous observation and photography of celestial bodies (shooting before I could take a few hours — just as the astronomer had to keep in focus the celestial body, watching him with a second pipe). Now the telescope is already decommissioned, but is in the status of the monument of science and technology of the first category and requires constant maintenance — cleaning and lubrication. All that as required is self-Fidel Gorbunov.

— This Observatory is considered the alma mater of our astronomy — explains Gorbunov. In contrast to the telescope in the tower of Nazarovo to this tool had a much more worthy fate: he is and always has been in the main building of the Observatory, worked on it our main luminaries of astronomy. Constantly need to maintain, and it just so happened that all maintenance work is now laid upon me, therefore I was invited to work in SAI as “engineer-historian”.

According to participants of the AGA, their activity is possible only when they have a basement it is a place to discuss current projects, and a workshop, and warehouse to a variety of tools and machines. If, as has happened in the past, the basement will be closed (which is possible, given what astronomers can “pull” its content and extensive restoration work on their own), the city Observatory and telescopes can again go into decline. But until enough forces, says Gorbunov, work in progress.

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