McCormick Museum

Yale-Columbia Refractor

The 26-inch at Mason Lab, Yale University, in 1924At the Yale Southern Station in Johannesburg.

Destroyed, at Mount Stromlo Observatory, after fire of January 18, 2003.

In 1925, Frank Schlesinger at Yale University, who has been described as "the father of modern astrometry" in part for his role in perfecting the photographic methods of parallax determination at Yerkes Observatory, established a Southern Station of the Yale Observatory at Johannesburg, South Africa. A 26-inch long-focus refractor (lens made by J. B. McDowell of Pittsburgh, John A. Brashear's son-in-law, and the mounting made in the Yale shops, in a project involving R. W. Sellew) was erected at this site for the determination of parallaxes of southern stars (it was the largest refractor in the southern hemisphere when first installed, and only ¼-inch smaller than the McCormick refractor). Harold Alden served as director from 1925-1945, before returning to McCormick Observatory to serve as director there. Nearly 70,000 plates were taken with this telescope, which was moved to Mt. Stromlo Observatory, outside Canberra, Australia, in 1952, and used by Yale and Columbia Universities until the mid-1960's.

Beginning in 1977, this telescope was used by Phil Ianna and collaborators to extend the McCormick Observatory's parallax program to the Southern Hemisphere. The observing program ended on the Yale-Columbia Refractor in 1992, when efforts were redirected to using a CCD (an electronic detector) on a 40-inch reflecting telescope at Siding Spring Observatory, located outside of Coonabarabran, Australia (from 1989-2002).

The Yale-Colombia was destroyed by bushfire on January 18, 2003, along with the other major telescopes at Mount Stromlo.

Adapted from the Yale Astronomy Department History webpage.