Milwaukee Astronomical Society


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. With the acquisition of additional land which means we'll be staying put on the current property for the foreseeable future, there is a plan plan to install 2 bathrooms and a darkroom by extending the Armfield Observatory to the east. 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." At this time they are still relying on an outhouse.



Construction starts on the bathrooms and darkroom and is completed by the end of 1965. All three rooms have electric heat to keep the pipes from freezing during the winter. The cost for the project is $4,128.00.

MAS becomes a leader in the new field of lunar grazing occultations. Halbach builds a trailer to hold 2 miles of cable for the timings. The Esterline Angus Instrument Company donates a 20 pen recorder for the project.

Graze cable.

Graze Cable Trailor.

Observatory grounds in 1965.

The 12.5" Buckstaff Telescope was rebuilt.



Tom Pope leaves to work at New Mexico State University in planetary photography laboratory.

The MAS and the Racine Astronomical Society host ALCON (Astronomical League Convention). The meetings are downtown at the Schroeder Hotel. There were tours of the both societies  observatories and there was a visit to Yerkes Observatory.  



Tom Thurner requests that he be permitted to erect a 20" telescope on the MAS property. Work begins by the pouring of the base and then the all-concrete pier for the Thurner Telescope.

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.

The Wisconsin Michigan Pipeline Company purchased additional right of way along the west property line. They also paid $2,100 for the replacement of the trees they destroyed.



The Saturday Member's Night is expanded to the entire year and an assigned keyholder will open up the observatory and any society member can use the equipment.

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, 1969 Double Dome]



Halbach along with a number of helpers designs and builds 10 portable photographic telescopes using 120mm 20X satellite scopes on loan to the society. The JOMAS (junior members) group start assembling a proposed radio telescope using a 10 foot aluminum dish given to the society.

Bob James constructs a mirror grinding machine to help make 12 10-inch f/5.6 mirrors for the "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

Photo from: Wikimedia Commons



A clock drive is installed on the B-Scope. Twelve MAS members observe total solar eclipse in eastern Canada; eighth eclipse expedition for Halbach. The first 10-inch graze telescope is shown at the January dinner meeting. High winds blow down the radio telescope, damaging it beyond repair.  



With frustration with the performance of the B-Scope (the clock drive is still not working), Bill Collins suggests that "The Klunk" (his assessment of that scope) be placed in one of the runoff sheds and a new and larger instrument be put in the B-Dome. He gets permission to place an ad in Sky & Telescope for a large mirror blank in any grinding phase. He receives 3 responses, but one of them is a standout: a 26" mirror blank that the owner claims to be one of two trial pourings by the Corning Glass Works in 1934 for the 200-inch Palomar Telescope mirror. The disc has been ground previously (but not aluminized) with a curve of f/2. Longtime MAS member Cora Zemlock donates money to buy the mirror and to have it shipped.

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.

The "cab" for the Comet Seeker. This would have sat at the top of the concrete pier. It had a steering wheel so the it could be rotated.

Pier for the comet seeker.

The Comet Seeker pier. Though it sat on solid concrete, the the column was a prefabricated concrete tube and not completely solid.


Bill Albrecht begins the process of planning for the 26" telescope. He starts by looking for a new site for the large telescope and a future move for all equipment. Also, he starts work on design and drawings for the telescope.  



12 graze telescopes (aka Portascopes) are finished. Ed Halbach accepts an award from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada for the Portascope design. Halbach starts MAS on the Eclipsing Binary Program to determine periodicity of EB stars. The B-Scope is renovated.

Portascopes in 1974. Project completed. Bill Collins.

1974 - Portascopes completed. Bill Collins.

Portascopes completed. 11 of 12. 1974

1974 - 11 of the 12 completed Portascopes.

There is great excitement over the arrival of Comet Kohoutek (advertised as the Comet of the Century) which will be at maximum during the winter. The MAS decides to hold a special open house at Whitnall Park to accommodate the expected crowds and 25 members came to help. 1150 people come out in the cold and are largely disappointed as it wasn't even the comet of the year. 

Membership dues are increased to $20.



The A Dome is now power driven. Halbach notes that generally 17 telescopes are available for use at the observatory.

2160 people attend the Open House nights that year.



Gerry Samolyk and Gary Wedemayer - 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 and 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 and the following year he will be elected to the post for a full 3-year term.



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.

Portascopes. From left: Jim Toeller, Paul Murn, Virgil Tangney, Ken Krahn, Bill Collins, Bill Albrecht, and Ed Halbach.

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

Ray Zit becomes the Observatory Director.