During a trip to Rhode Island I had the pleasure of visiting the historic Ladd Observatory on October 16th to look through their 128 year old (12 inch) refracting telescope.
All the optics and gravity driven clock drive are unchanged since the observatory was built in 1891. The same level of preservation applies to the building, which feels like stepping back into the 19th century.
With clear skies during my visit I had the opportunity to gaze at Saturn. The contrast and views of Saturn through this instrument were amazing. An obvious Cassini division with clear shadowing and storm bands on Saturn’s globe, plus several of the brightest moons were clearly visible.
In addition to the main telescope the observatory has several rooms with photographic slides and exhibits preserved from yesteryear. One function of the observatory was that of precise timekeeping and signaling using known transit and occultation times for the Moon, planets and bright stars close to the ecliptic. A fascinating array of transit telescopes, pendulum clocks, and chronometers are testament to this previous function.
The observatory would wire calibration signals to the Providence fire service and several other important businesses, allowing clocks to be fine tuned for accuracy. This practice continued up to the 1970s.
Please enjoy some of the images I snapped from my visit below.