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Prototype Moonwatch Telescope

Prototype Moonwatch Telescope

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The Moonwatch program was created because of the difficulty scientists had in predicting the orbits of the new artificial satellites. Volunteers were recruited and trained to scan the evening skies for new objects, and their observations, carefully recorded on charts of the sky, were forwarded to the Moonwatch office for analysis.
Multiple Moonwatch telescopes, each with its own observer, were used at locations around the country. Each observer in a group was assigned to watch a specific area of the sky, and the telescopes were designed to make this as easy and comfortable as possible. The telescopes were usually placed on a desk or table where the observers could sit comfortably.
The Moonwatch telescopes had several unusual features. With low magnification and short length, they were designed to show an unusually large portion of the sky. The mounting of the telescope, which pointed down and viewed the sky through a mirror, prevented the observers from developing neck-aches (from looking up). The telescope also had an unusually wide eyepiece, which reduced eye fatigue.
The Moonwatch program only lasted for a few years, but the contributions of its many amateur observers were important in the early days of space exploration.
Ref: Patrick McCray, Keep Watching the Skies! The Story of Operation Moonwatch and the Dawn of the Space Age (Princeton, 2008).
Currently not on view
Object Name
Date made
ca 1956
overall: 38.5 cm x 30.5 cm x 12 cm; 15 3/16 in x 12 in x 4 3/4 in
overall: 15 in x 12 in x 4 1/2 in; 38.1 cm x 30.48 cm x 11.43 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
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Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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