Back in 1935 Captain Clyde S. "Sandy" McDowell, who was managed the Palomar project for a time, decided that a working 1/10 scale model of the 200-inch telescope was necessary. He wanted it as an engineering model for the big scope that was to follow. It was too small to have a working prime focus cage, but the prototype included nearly every other detail (such as working oil bearings) that the final working 200-inch telescope was to include.
They bought one of the 20-inch scaled down replica versions of the 200-inch mirror from Corning and set about to build their prototype.
Here is the support structure, including the horseshoe for the prototype.
The telescope tube:
Captain "Sandy" McDowell with the completed prototype:
Note the piping for the north and south oil bearings.
The Hale Prototype had been mounted into a dome on top of the Robinson Astrophysics Building on the Caltech campus. There it was use for years by Caltech astronomy students. It was eventually traded to Corning Community College, where it forms a centerpiece to their Eileen Collins Observatory.
Last November I had the pleasure to visit Corning, NY and had the chance to finally see the 20-inch telescope.
The weather was about what you expect in western NY for November: cloudy, but I was all smiles at finally seeing this piece of Palomar history.
The prototype & its horseshoe:
One surprise that I didn't expect was seeing the old control panel for the telescope:
The old control panel isn't used, like Palomar they are using computers to operate their telescopes, but it looks very much like some old control panels I have seen on the mountain.
I am glad that this telescope did not succumb to the ravages of time, but I confess that I would really love to have it here on Palomar for use with our public outreach programs. On the other hand Corning is the birthplace of the 200-inch mirror and this prototype, and the good people who operate it, serve as ambassadors for Palomar and all of astronomy. Of course if Corning ever decides to get rid of the telescope my number is in the book.