Refurbished telescope finds new home at local school

Fred Whittaker’s eighth-grade science class posed with a telescope donated to the St. Francis of Assisi School science lab by Christopher Graney. Graney, a professor of astronomy at Jefferson Community and Technical College, found the 1960s-era telescope at the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store on Preston Street and refurbished it before donating it to the school. (Photo Special to The Record)

Fred Whittaker’s eighth-grade science class posed with a telescope donated to the St. Francis of Assisi School science lab by Christopher Graney. Graney, a professor of astronomy at Jefferson Community and Technical College, found the 1960s-era telescope at the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store on Preston Street and refurbished it before donating it to the school. (Photo Special to The Record)

On Wednesday, Jan. 9, St. Francis of Assisi School in Louisville received a “new” piece of science laboratory equipment: a telescope.

The telescope was presented to St. Francis science teacher Fred Whittaker on behalf of WLCR 1040 AM’s “Science & Catholicism” radio show, which is hosted by Christopher Graney. Graney is a professor of physics and astronomy at Jefferson Community & Technical College.

Graney, in a news release to The Record about the telescope, said he had found it at the St. Vincent de Paul store on Preston Street. It was in very poor condition and on for sale for just $25, Graney said, “but it was obvious that it had been built to last, and had real potential.”

The telescope was built by Criterion Instruments, probably in the early 1960’s, he noted. It features some brass fittings and what Graney said was “rugged construction.”

When the “Science & Catholicism” radio show began on WLCR in May 2012, Graney thought the telescope could be used in connection with the show, and began to refurbish it in earnest. He removed rust, polished metal, lubricated fittings, and painted the tube.

A laboratory in California restored the mirrors. But thanks to the telescope’s construction, bringing it back to “like new” condition was not difficult — even its motor drive for tracking stars still worked perfectly, Graney said.

In December St. Francis student Cassie Drury, who recently achieved national recognition with her science fair project, and Whittaker were interviewed for “Science & Catholicism.”  At that time Graney saw a great potential home for the telescope in St. Francis’s busy, yet carefully stewarded science laboratory — one where it might serve for decades to come. In the words of one St. Francis student who was using the telescope to check out a tree many blocks way, “it will definitely get used here.”

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