The Bouchet telescope lives! — and works! — and has been used in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
The 19th-century refractor owned by Msgr. Michael Bouchet of Louisville, Kentucky has been a regular feature here on Sacred Space Astronomy, dating all the way back to 2017. The telescope sat, first in storage, then in the Archdiocesan History Center, probably for well over a century. But about eighteen months ago, it stopped sitting. Thanks to yours truly, to Tim Tomes (Archdiocesan Archivist), to my wife, and even to a telescope expert from the Museo Galileo in Florence who has worked on Galileo’s telescope, it is now fully functional. Its story so far has been told in the following posts:
- Monsignor Bouchet’s Telescope
- Putting the Bouchet Telescope Back in Service
- A Wooden Tripod falls from the Sky
Now, the Bouchet telescope is not just functional — it has been functioning. It has been showing people in the Archdiocese their night sky, and it has also been showing them the history of science and of their local church. The following photos (a feast for the eyes on this Thanksgiving weekend!) show it in action.
Here are Tim Tomes and my wife using the telescope on the evening of its “first light” (that is, the first use of the telescope to observe a celestial object) — June 26, 2023. They are observing Venus and the moon in the parking lot of the History Center. These photos were taken by me.
Here we have the telescope, looking great (note the “Louisville” stamped into it) and the moon; then me trying to take a photo of the moon through the telescope; and finally, the moon. The moon photo is by me; the other two photos, and all other photos in this post, are by Tomes.
The Bouchet scope was front-page news in the September 7 issue of the Archdiocesan newspaper, The Record. Click here for the on-line version of the story.
On September 24, we took the telescope to Louisville’s Bellarmine University, where there was a mass, a talk by me and Tomes, and a public viewing. Prof. Kate Bulinski of Bellarmine, who has written guest blogs here at Sacred Space Astronomy, put things together. Members of the general public who saw The Record article and lots of Bellarmine students all had a look. Saturn and the moon were both visible, despite semi-cloudy skies. The scope’s magnification is pretty low, so the rings of Saturn were barely visible.
Then on October 1, the Bouchet telescope visited St. Gregory the Great Church in Samuels, Kentucky. Andrew Salsman, Adult Faith Formation Coordinator at St. Gregory, made it all happen, and the event was attended both by St. Gregory folks and folks who saw The Record article and drove to the event (one couple drove 100 miles!). The night was clear, and St. Gregory is located about 30 miles southeast of Louisville, so the skies were dark — or would have been, except for too many local lights. The staff at St. Gregory turned out the nearby lights, but more distant ones were still obnoxious. Nevertheless, we could make out the Milky Way — barely! Saturn, Arcturus, the moon, and Jupiter were all targets for the Bouchet scope.
Jupiter (arrowed below) and the moon were rising together on that night. The telescope showed both of those objects very well. Those who stuck around to see them clear the trees on the eastern horizon received quite the visual treat on this beautiful night in rural Kentucky!