Instrumentation report

Instrumentation Section Report 2013-14
By Chris Stewart

Activities of the Instrumentation Section largely revolve around communication, outreach, guidance and education, plus the important aspect of encouraging people in the pursuit of their personal instrumentation projects. To date there has been no drive to formally induct members into the Section; rather, the approach has been to address ASSA members’ needs for information on a case by case basis.

In support of the Society’s general communication efforts, which equally support the instrumentation Section’s goals, the following have been performed and are largely ongoing:

  • Reviewed & provided feedback on the ASSA website during and after construction.
  • Initiated and moderate the ASSA FaceBook page.
  • Established and moderate the Yahoo! Group mail lists.
  • Initiated and moderate the Telescope Making FaceBook page.
  • Publicized the ASSA communication channels by mail, FaceBook & word of mouth.
  • Contributed links and suggestions for website, posted content on FaceBook

The Section directly supports the needs of both ASSA members and the general public regarding construction, purchase, maintenance and use of their instrumentation, Inter alia, this is done via: the telescope making class; the Telescope Making SA FaceBook page; e-mail correspondence, telephonic discussion, and ScopeX.

The Telescope Making SA Facebook group – whilst predominantly South African – has at the time of writing attracted 285 members from around the world, including such luminaries as Harrie Rutten, Richard Berry, Mel Bartels and Scott Losmandy. This international involvement produces an energetic bidirectional flow of ideas, information, technical assistance and encouragement.

The telescope making class, which has been continuously active for over 20 years, attracts a steady stream of newcomers to the art, with a good success rate of people finishing their first instruments. In addition, there is a significant proportion of “return business”, i.e. people staying on after completion of their first telescope or returning later, in order to tackle more advanced projects.

ScopeX, which grew out of the telescope making class, is currently ramping up for the 13th annual event. In addition to the primary goals of general astronomy outreach and publicizing the Society, it provides a platform for the telescope making community to exhibit their work and encourage newcomers to engage in this fascinating hobby. Having a plethora of instruments at one place (both commercial and amateur-built/modified), enables visitors and members alike to see and touch a variety of instruments. This sparks discussion of ideas, approaches and relative merits, thus enabling them to make informed choices.

The Director has nascent ideas for communal projects within the section, and asks those interested collaborative development to get in touch with him to discuss.

Chris Stewart

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