We're running a membership drive this month – our goal is 150 new members – and as a part of it we're including this blatant clickbait series... Besides, it's a chance to tell some of the funny stories that come up during cloudy nights at the VATT!
The old astronomer tells the tale... A certain mechanically-inclined graduate student was observing star fields at the Schmidt telescope, a telescope that used photographic plates. (This was a while ago; nobody makes these plates anymore.) This fascinating telescope design doesn't have any eyepiece; it is designed solely to take a photographic image of a wide field of the sky, often several degrees wide, using a series of corrector lenses and mirrors to insure that the stars are in sharp focus from one side of the plate to the other.
But when this student opened up the telescope to insert the photographic plate, he noticed that the plate holder was warped. Quickly, using his mechanical skills, he removed the plate holder and machined it flat.
Unfortunately, the plate holder was designed to be curved... the last step in the corrections making sure that the entire wide viewing field of the telescope was in focus on the plate.
Don't let us go flat broke! Why should you click on our donate button and help support our site? Your money supports the work of the Vatican Observatory, including our research, our telescope, our biennial summer schools, our educational outreach... and our mission to serve as a living sign of how science and religion are not enemies but work together without preconceptions in search of the truth. About a third of our budget comes from donations. And rather than just being at the mercy of one or two big donors or foundations, we want to show that our mission has a broader appeal. So we're asking for lots of people willing to send us $10 a month as a sign that they support our mission..and enjoy reading our stories. Can you join us?