A recent history of telescopes

Posted by David Eicher
on Friday, April 15, 2011

On the eve of the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) in Suffern, New York, the nation’s largest astronomy expo, I’d like to reflect on telescopes. The history of amateur astronomy is filled with many memorable moments in scope technology.

Credit: Celestron
Those of us fortunate to attend NEAF this year will see a spectacular array of new equipment from numerous manufacturers. But what about some of the historical highlights of the amateur astronomy telescope market? This compilation of key dates, from Astronomy’s 35th anniversary issue a couple years back, highlights a few of them you may remember:

1973
-    Celestron offers a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope.
-    Stellafane, the oldest meeting of amateur astronomers in the country, celebrates its 50th anniversary in Springfield, Vermont.

1975
-    Orion Telescopes and Binoculars is established.
-    Magazine ads are dominated by Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes, Meade research-quality telescopes and accessories, Cave Astrola Newtonians, and Dynascope’s RV-6 reflector.

1977
-    Edmund Scientific introduces the popular Astroscan — a 4¼-inch Newtonian reflector.
-    Meade Instruments Corp. offers a pair of reflectors so popular that orders are backlogged for months.
-    Al Nagler creates Tele Vue Optics in Spring Valley, New York.

1978
-    In October, AstroMedia begins publishing Telescope Making, a quarterly, with Richard Berry as editor.

1979
-    The first nebula filters advertised, promise to eliminate sky glow and make deep-sky objects look better.
-    The first Texas Star Party is held in August in the Davis Mountains of West Texas.

1980
-    Meade introduces the System 2000 line of improved Schmidt-Cassegrains.
-    Coulter Optical introduces Odyssey 1, the first large scope on a Dobsonian mount.
-    Tele Vue Optics introduces the revolutionary Nagler eyepiece line, one that will change observing and the expectations of observers everywhere.
-    Astronomy publishes an article series on how to build your own Dobsonian telescope, which, along with Telescope Making articles, pushes forward the Dobsonian revolution.

1981
-    Roland Christen of Astro-Physics creates the first “color-free” refractor lens.
-    Image intensifier devices become fashionable, providing electric-green views of stars and nebulae.

1984
-    Meade releases integrated electronic drive systems for its Schmidt-Cassegrains.
-    The first Winter Star Party is held in February in the Florida Keys.

1987
-    The ATI CAT, an early computer-based finding device for  Schmidt-Cassegrains, previews go-to technology to come.

1989
-    A new generation of Dobsonians, featuring aluminum struts covered by canvas rather than a solid tube, makes large scopes more portable.

1990
-    Astro-Physics releases synthetic fluorite extra-low dispersion glass, which eliminates color fringes.
-    Meade offers the Smart Drive, the first permanently programmed correction software.

1992
-    In August, the first Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) is held in Suffern, New York.

1993
-    The 25th annual Riverside Telescope Makers Conference is held in May in Big Bear City, California.

1994
-    Meade introduces Autostar, the first computerized go-to system for commercial scopes.

2002
-    Meade is the first to offer ultra-high transmission coatings for commercial Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes.

2004
-    Go-to scopes make finding celestial objects easier and allow more observing time.
-    The integration of personal computers with scope drives and CCDs begins.

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