Increasingly, telescopes are coming to rely on electricity, and as we move to more contemporary telescopes in the library, one deficiency of our collection that is becoming clear is the lack of electric power supplies that we can loan out with telescopes. While many of our instruments can operate on AA or D size batteries, is this expensive, either for RCA, or for each borrower. Not only is the cost high, but the lifetime of batteries is small, some telescope really draw power. Some scopes can draw all the power out of the batteries they operate with in a single night of observing, maybe less. By acquiring power supplies with more capacity, we provide reliable sources of power for our telescopes, and the payback time for these power sources is rapid — under a year, given the number of loans we are making.
Most of our scopes run on 12 volt DC power, and a few take only 110 volt AC power. For these scopes, we will acquire inverters, which produces AC power from a DC power source. These will be made available as optional add-on kits for some telescopes, and part of the telescope package, where electric power is required. Until we have enough supplies and inverters to loan with each scope that requires them, we will not loan out the items separately.
We've have 1 Celestron Power Tank (the 17-amp hour model, with a 20AH battery) for about a year now, and it has been used quite successfully on several telescopes. We also have 12 volt plugs to fit a variety of external power supply connectors on different scopes. Recently, we have acquired 2 7-amp hour Power Tanks, and 1 Li-ON power pack with an inverter, which can supply 150 watts of AC power. We are deferring additional purchases until we see what borrowers demand; if it is high, we will acquire more of these units, or others, as telescope require. Each unit will loan fully charged, and with a recharger. we will work with borrowers to ensure that power supplies and chargers come back to us in working condition.
In addition, we recently received a donation of a GOTO telescope with its own power supply and recharging gear. This will also be monitored for loan activity. This gear is available now. We will review the use of power supplies for continued acquisition, as we continue to improve the collection, and as more power-hungry equipment enters service.
The Telescope Library, Repackaged
The Telescope Library is providing new packaging to better protect our telescopes. We intend to lengthen the useful life of each telescope, and improve the condition of telescope you can borrow.
There was a time when Telescopes were delivered with excellent carrying cases, trunks, or bags for storage and moves to observing sites, but over the years, cost-cutting and competitive pressure have often removed cases from what commercial telescope makers delivered as part of their products. In recent years, telescopes were delivered in containers suitable for shipping, but cardboard and foam containers are not really suitable for long-term storage and use. They eventually wear out, tear, deteriorate, and have to be fixed up or discarded. The telescope and accessories are then much more likely to be damaged, and separated, Parts go missing, and the scope becomes useless.
Library telescope are more vulnerable than average, as they pass from one borrower to another. Some telescopes have come to us with good protection, properly packed in cases suitable for moving, but others have not. The result is that our collection becomes less useful, and smaller, sometimes for no good reason. We can take reasonable steps to minimize damage. By improving the packaging of the telescopes you borrow, we make it easier to keep our equipment safe, whether it is borrowed, or in storage.
Here's a recent example, one popular telescope, a 6 inch Celestron Nextstar, has been in a padded cardboard box that could not be closed. Please note the photo of this box, taped up to lengthen its life. Recently, as part of this effort, it was moved to a new, heavy-duty grade shipping and storage container (above) augmented with foam packing material to provide extra shock protection. The lid can be closed against dust and dirt, and the telescope is now much more secure for borrowers, easier to ship and stack in storage, all at a fraction of the repair or replacement cost.
We view our work as resulting in delivery of a working telescope with each loan request, and better packaging is one of the factors helps us deliver on that commitment to our members. We know that borrowers handle our telescopes with care, and we want to make it easier and more reliable to to deliver telescopes in good working order. In future articles, we will cover a few other steps we are taking to improve the library, some of which are behind the scenes.