History of the Milwaukee Astronomical Society

1964-1977 - Restrooms, Grazes, Portascopes, Halbach Retires

A-Scope as it looked from 1938-1974.

The Luverne Armfield Telescope (aka A-Scope)  as it looked at the time that the new mirror was installed.


Ed Halbach elected Founder Member. 800 red pines planted along the perimeter of the observatory property. Plans for the major expansion are scrapped. Instead, bathrooms and a darkroom are added to the Armfield Observatory. A well is dug (172 feet) and a septic tank is built. According to the Double Dome of October, 1962, about this installation, “This could be of considerable benefit to all."


MAS becomes a leader in the new field of grazing occultation working using a trailer with 2 miles of cable for timings.

Graze cable.

Observatory grounds in 1965.



Tom Pope leaves to work at New Mexico State University in planetary photography laboratory. The all-concrete pier for the 20” Thurner Telescope is poured.

Pier of the Thurner 20" telescope.



Construction of the Thurner 20” is abandoned. More evergreens planted along the west property line. JOMAS (Junior Observers of the MAS) begin working on a radio telescope.



After a disappointing graze attempt by 6 observers because of inadequate equipment, Ed Halbach proposes the club build a number of “easily portable” 8-inch or larger reflectors for the grazes and general use, especially at the Open House nights. [From the Nov, ’69 Double Dome]



Mirror grinding machine constructed to make 12 10-inch f/5.6 mirrors for "Portascope" telescopes for grazing occultation work. The meeting hall in the Quonset essentially becomes a factory for the portascopes over the next 3 years. Introduction of the Yard Key which opens the gate and shuts off the street lamp.

MAS 10" f/5.6 Portascope



A clock drive installed on the B-Scope. Twelve MAS members observe total solar eclipse in eastern Canada; eighth eclipse expedition for Halbach. Longtime MAS member Cora Zemlock donates money to buy a 26” mirror blank. It is believed to be a trial blank poured by the Corning Glass Works prior to the casting of the 200-inch Palomar mirror. Work on a Comet Seeker progresses. The cab is basically completed and the pier is poured. But this is as far as the project will ever progress.

Cab for the comet seeker. Pier for the comet seeker.




Graze telescopes finished. Halbach starts MAS on Eclipsing Binary Program to determine periodicity of EB stars. B-Scope renovated.

The Portascopes.


MAS wins an award for the design of our Portascopes. The A Dome is now power driven. Halbach notes that generally 17 telescopes are available for use at the observatory.



Gerry Samolyk and Gary Wedemeyer - Observing EB's.

EB Program in full swing lead by Gerry Samolyk; MAS observers contribute 30% of world's total data for the program. Halbach retires from observatory directorship in June, Robert James assumes the position for the rest of his term.

Plans to move the observatory to a site near Holy Hill from land to be donated by William and Anne Albrecht upon successful completion of donations for the telescope and observatory.

Exterior rendering of proposed new observatory near Holy Hill.


At the May membership meeting, Ed Halbach announces his retirement. He resigns as Observatory Director as he will be moving to Colorado the following year. Raymond Zit is appointed the new director.


The old Armfield Scope (aka A-Scope) is completely rebuilt and rededicated as the Edward A. Halbach Telescope. Nine observers obtained record graze results; 108 data points at region of limb near Cassini. See the photo below:

Graph of one of the most successful grazes.

A 10-foot parabolic dish is donated and Wisconsin Electric transports it to the observatory. Unfortunately, the dish will never be used.