History of the Milwaukee Astronomical Society

1952-1963 - The Quonset, Moonwatch, Expansion Plans

MAS gang in the Monestary. Around 1950?

We do not know exactly when this picture was taken, but we assume in the early fifties. It is the only known photograph taken inside the Monastery. Sitting (L to R) : Roy Dodd, Elizibeth Wight, Alfred Memmel. Standing (L to R): Herbert Cornell, Ralph Buckstaff, Roy Lee, Edwin Schoenke, Edward Halbach, Joseph Stevens, William Albrecht.



Ed Halbach receives the New York Astronomical Association award for his services to amateur astronomy, the first of many he would receive during his lifetime.


The transit of Mercury is successfully photographed by members of the MAS. Bill Albrecht leads solar eclipse expedition to Mattice, Canada, but is clouded out.


The Quonset building is donated to the MAS by the Milwaukee Public Museum. They were hoping to lay this between the A and B dome, thus fulfilling the original plan of two domed buildings joined by a single story building that would serve as a meeting hall. But the height of the B-Dome was not sufficient so the idea proved impractical. Instead, it was decided that it could be attached to the A-Dome and point toward the north. In time, the Quonset would be partitioned to have an office area in the back area and a oil heater added. That year there was an Annular eclipse expedition to Somalialand.


The MAS joins "Project Moonwatch" which is a satellite tracking program, a program that already existed, but was boosted by the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik.

Ed Halbach at the blackboard.


View of the converted Monestary - now called the Satellite Shed.

In 1958, A.O. Smith Company donated $1700 toward the construction of a rotating shuttered satellite observation building. The funds were used to modify the “monastery” building to have a flat roof with a hinged cover at the north end. By that time the office and library were moved to the back room of the Quonset.

The picture at the left shows the new structure that became known as the Satellite Shed. At the left of that picture is the original Tool Shed and just to the right is the lower portion of what was the radio mast constructed in 1938.

First edition of the Double Dome newsletter. 

The newsletter for the club called The Double Dome is started at the suggestion of Halbach. There had been no newsletter for the club since 1938! In the first issue, dated January, the following was written by an unknown editor: "THE EDITOR indignantly denies founding this newsletter to promote his own speech. The idea was Ed Halbach's, and the purpose is to publicize our efforts to blast ourselves off our fat launching pads. Since one of the immediate objectives is to finish the Buckstaff 12 inch installation, we were tempted to call this sheet the 'Empty Dome.' Feared somebody would mistake the title for a description of the writer." The next issue wouldn't be published for another 13 months!


Members Pope and Osypowski obtain superb lunar and planetary photographs using the A-Scope.


Continued work on satellite tracking, culminating in the visual observation of Sputnik 4 re-entry by Schaefer, Zit, and Highsmith in September 1962. These along with observations the MAS Moonwatch program made were instrumental in helping to recover pieces of the spacecraft that fell in Manitowoc and West Bend. You can read more about this here.


The 13 inch mirror on loan from the AAVSO is in need of refiguring and realuminizing. Rather than go through that expense, especially because it’s plate glass and does not belong to the MAS, they started a fund in 1960 to buy a new 12.5 inch mirror of superb quality from Cave Optical. A fundraising campaign is started and for $250 they secure the mirror, the diagonal, and a new mirror cell. The old 13 inch mirror is returned to the AAVSO. The new mirror has a focal length of 108.875 inches making the new A-Scope an f/8.71.


The MAS is offered 2 additional acres of adjacent land by the Phillips family which we gladly accept. The new property line to the west is where there is now a natural gas line easement. This prompts another major plan for expansion of the observatory.

New and old observatory property lines.



The MAS takes possession of the two acres of land adjacent to observatory. The board approves the official naming of the two main telescopes: Armfield and Buckstaff with nameplates. For years they’ve been informally called that, anyway. There is a new sign in the parking lot. The board approves the addition of restrooms and a darkroom for the observatory by extending the Armfield Observatory.

Luverne Armfield Telesscope plaque. Ralph Buckstaff Telescope plaque attached to the pier.