The Palermo Merz Equatorial Telescope

An Instrument, a Manuscript, Some Drawings

in Nuncius
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A manuscript by Georg and Sigmund Merz dated 1862 and containing instructions for assembling the equatorial telescope acquired by the Palermo Observatory is conserved in the archives of the Museo Astronomico e Copernicano in Rome. It is a rare document that reveals “tricks of the trade” and technical knowledge not usually included in textbooks or treatises. It was sent to the Palermo Observatory as an aid to the installation of the telescope, which made a signal contribution to the development of solar physics in Italy in the 19th century. Based on the study of unpublished sources (consisting of texts and drawings), the history of the instrument has been retraced. This paper presents a detailed description of the Merz manuscript (including a complete transcript) and some technical drawings recently discovered in the archives of the Palermo Observatory.

The Palermo Merz Equatorial Telescope

An Instrument, a Manuscript, Some Drawings

in Nuncius

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References

  • 41

    See Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von StruveCatalogus novus stellarum duplicium et multiplicium maxima ex parte in Specula Universitatis Caesareae Dorpatensis per magnum telescopium achromaticum Fraunhoferi detectarum (Dorpati: Typis J.C. Schuemanni1827). Struve published additional catalogues of double stars in 1837 and 1852; see Joseph S. Tenn “Keepers of the Double Stars” Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage 2013 16 (1):81–93 pp. 83–84.

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  • 45

    See Otto Wilhelm von StruveCatalogue de 514 Étoiles Doubles et Multiples découvertes sur l’hémisphère céleste boréal par la grande lunette de l’Observatoire Central de Poulkova et Catalogue de 256 Étoiles Doubles Principales où la distance des composantes est de 32 secondes à 2 minutes et qui se trouvent sur l’hémisphère boréal (St. Petersburg: Academy of Sciences1843).

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  • 61

    See Renzo Lay“Il Nuovo Osservatorio del Collegio Romano,” in Angelo Secchi. L’avventura scientifica del Collegio Romanoedited by Aldo Altamore Sabino Maffeo (Foligno: Edizioni Quater 2012) pp. 91–107; 100.

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  • 66

    See Marinella CalisiGuida alla visita del Museo Astronomico e Copernicano di Roma (Roma: Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma1991) p. 10.

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  • 67

    See Paolo Brenni“The Fraunhofer’s Refractor of Tartu (Dorpat) and its Restoration,” Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society2012 113:2–7.

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Figures

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    Figure 1

    Portrait of Domenico Ragona (oil on canvas by Salvatore Rubino, 1903; Museo della Specola, INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo)

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    Figure 2

    Portrait of Pietro Tacchini (photographer unknown, ca. 1880; reproduced with the permission of the Observatoire de Paris)

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    Figure 3

    Portrait of Georg Merz (pencil drawing by Eugen N. Neureuther [1806–1882]; image provided courtesy of PD Dr.-Ing. Timo Mappes, www.musoptin.com)

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    Figure 4

    Sketch by Tacchini of the dome built for the Cauchoix telescope at the Collegio Romano Observatory, which probably served as the model for the dome of the Palermo Merz equatorial (Archives of the INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma)

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    Figure 5

    Drawings of sunspots observed by Tacchini in 1865 using the newly installed Merz equatorial at the Palermo Observatory (from Pietro Tacchini, “Il Sole veduto col grande Refrattore di Merz,” Bullettino meteorologico del R. Osservatorio di Palermo, 1865, I-5:1–3)

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    Figure 6

    Spectroscopic images of solar prominences observed by Tacchini in 1871 using a Tauber direct-vision spectroscope attached to the Merz equatorial (lithographs reproduced from Pietro Tacchini, “Fisica solare,” Bullettino meteorologico del R. Osservatorio di Palermo, 1871, VII-5:49–62; VII-6:69–78; VII-7:85–99; VII-8:111–113; VII-9:121–132)

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    Figure 7

    Photograph of the Rome Merz equatorial, taken when it was on temporary display in the Copernicus Hall of the Museo Astronomico e Copernicano, which is housed in the Rome Observatory on Monte Mario (from Giuseppe Armellini, “Il R. Osservatorio e Museo Astronomico di M. Mario,” Capitolium, 1938, XIII:611–620, p. 615)

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    Figure 8a

    The first page of the manuscript by Georg and Sigmund Merz, showing the title in Italian (Archives of INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma)

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    Figure 8b

    The last page of the manuscript by Georg and Sigmund Merz, showing the signature written by different hands (Archives of INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma)

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    Figure 9a

    Lithograph of pieces of the disassembled telescope, probably drawn by Tacchini in 1865 (Archives of INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo); see the annexed legenda

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    Figure 9b

    Lithograph of pieces of the disassembled telescope, probably drawn by Tacchini in 1865 (Archives of INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo); see the annexed legenda

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    Figure 10

    One of the few surviving photographs of the Merz telescope at the Palermo Observatory, taken not later than 1876; the Tauber direct-vision spectroscope attached to the focus of the telescope is clearly visible (image reproduced courtesy of the Science Museum of London)

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    Figure 19

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