Utzschneider & Fraunhofer, Merz & Mahler Refracting Telescope (Comet Seeker)

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A comet seeker is a refracting telescope with a relatively short focal length and a relatively wide field of view. This example has an achromatic objective of 3.9 inches aperture. The tube is wood with brass fittings, and measures 38 inches long. The signature reads “Utzschneider und Fraunhofer / in München / ausgeführt von Merz u. Mahler.” It was installed at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., around 1843, and came to the Smithsonian in 1966. New it cost $320.
Joseph Fraunhofer was a German optician who worked in partnership with Joseph Utzschneider from 1815 until his death in 1826. Thirteen years later, this optical firm was sold to Merz u. Mahler, an instrument firm in Munich that specialized in astronomical instruments, and that remained in business, as such, until 1845.
Ref: Myles Jackson, Spectrum of Belief. Joseph von Fraunhofer and the Craft of Precision Optics (Cambridge, Mass., 2000).
Steven Dick, Sky with Ocean Joined. The U.S. Naval Observatory, 1830-2000 (Cambridge and New York, 2003), pp. 64-67.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1840
Merz u. Mahler
place made
overall: 38 in x 4 3/4 in; 96.52 cm x 12.065 cm
overall: 38 in x 4 3/4 in; 96.52 cm x 12.065 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
U.S. Naval Observatory
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Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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