Warner and Swasey Observatory

The Warner and Swasey Observatory is the astronomical observatory of Case Western Reserve University. Named after Worcester R. Warner and Ambrose Swasey, who built it at the beginning of the 20th century, it was initially located on Taylor Road in East Cleveland, Ohio, USA. The observatory, which at that time housed a 9.5-inch (24 cm) refractor, was donated in 1919 to the Case School of Applied Science. The newer 24-inch (61 cm) Burrell Schmidt telescope was built in 1939.

Due to rising light pollution in Cleveland, a new station in Geauga County's Montville Township was established in 1950s. Named after Jason John Nassau, the station initially housed the Burrell telescope, which was later moved to Kitt Peak National Observatory. Instead of Burrell the station was equipped with the 36-inch robotic telescope. In 2008 Nassau Station was sold to the Geauga Park District and subsequently incorporated into its Observatory Park.

The observatory currently operates the old 9.5-inch refractor (now known as the rooftop telescope) at the university's University Circle campus, and the Burrell Schmidt telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. The old site on Taylor Road was sold in 1983.

Coordinates: 41°32′10″N 81°34′6.5″W / 41.53611°N 81.568472°W

Warner and Swasey Observatory
Warner and Swasey 9.5inch refracting telescope
The rooftop telescope with the dome open
OrganizationCase Western Reserve University
LocationCleveland, Ohio (USA)
Coordinates41°32′10″N 81°34′6.5″W / 41.53611°N 81.568472°W
Burrell Schmidt Telescope24" Schmidt
Rooftop Telescope9.5" refractor
Warner and Swasey Observatory is located in the US
Warner and Swasey Observatory
Location of Warner and Swasey Observatory


Warner and Swasey Observatory
The Taylor Road facility of the Warner and Swasey Observatory

The observatory was originally built by Worchester R. Warner and Ambrose Swasey, owners of Warner & Swasey Company, which made precision instruments and telescopes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They became trustees of the Case School of Applied Science (later renamed to Case Institute of Technology), and built an observatory in East Cleveland, which they gave to the school in 1919. This original observatory building was located on Taylor Road four miles east of the university campus and housed a 9.5-inch refractor, and was dedicated in 1920. The building was designed by the firm of Walker and Weeks.[1] In subsequent years the observatory grew to house several more telescopes and instruments, such as the 24-inch Burrell Schmidt telescope, as well as an astronomical library and public lecture hall.[2]

In the 1950s, it became apparent that the light pollution from Cleveland was beginning to make cutting-edge research impossible from the East Cleveland site. A new site was constructed 30 miles to the east in Geauga County, known today as the Nassau Station, and the Burrell Schmidt telescope was moved to this location. In order to compensate for the move, a 36-inch telescope was soon installed at the Taylor Road facility.[2]

In 1978, the Astronomy Department of Case Western Reserve University made a deal with the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) to build a new observatory at Kitt Peak National Observatory to house the Burrell Schmidt. The telescope was moved from Ohio to Arizona in May 1979, and in 1980 the 36-inch reflector on Taylor Road was moved to the Nassau Station. This meant no further astronomical work was done at the Taylor Road facility, and as a result the faculty and resources of the original observatory were moved to the main campus of Case Western Reserve University in 1982.[2] The Taylor Road facility was sold in 1983, was abandoned, and remained neglected until 2005 when it was sold to a couple who planned to convert the building into a residence.[3][4] The plans stalled when its new owner was convicted of mortgage fraud and sent to prison in 2007.[5]


The Warner & Swasey Observatory at Kitt Peak National Observatory
The Warner and Swasey Observatory at Kitt Peak National Observatory

Burrell Schmidt Telescope

The 24-inch Burrell Schmidt Telescope was originally built in 1939 by Warner & Swasey Company of Cleveland, Ohio and was housed at the Taylor Road facility.[6] It is currently housed at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona. The telescope recently had its optics upgraded with a very wide field of view CCD array, which is much more sensitive than the photographic plates. It is the instrument used today by the Case astronomers.[7]

Nassau Station Robotic Observatory

The Nassau Station, originally constructed in the 1950s, currently houses a 36-inch reflecting telescope. It is named after observatory director Jason John Nassau, who was a prominent astronomer at the time.[8] Work was carried out in the 1990s to make the telescope capable of remote viewing, making it one of the first telescopes to be used in this manner.[9] However, it was seldom used by Case astronomers due to increased light pollution from Cleveland and the enhanced capabilities of the Burrell Schmidt. As a result, the observatory was left unused for several years until 2008, when it was sold to the Geauga Park District.[10] The park district reopened the facility as part of its Observatory Park on June 16, 2012.[11][12] The park was designated as a dark sky park by the International Dark Sky Association.[13]

Rooftop Telescope

The Rooftop Telescope is a 9.5-inch refractor that was originally constructed in 1894 by Warner and Swasey for their own use.[3] The telescope was the first instrument of the Warner and Swasey Observatory and was originally used at the Taylor Road facility, but was put into storage when the Astronomy Department of Case Western Reserve University was relocated to the A. W. Smith building on the main campus. In 1986 the telescope was reinstalled in a new dome on the roof of the A. W. Smith building.[14]

The telescope remains in excellent condition today and is available for use by all students, faculty, and staff at CWRU once they go through a seminar on proper telescope use.[14] It is also often used for public observing nights by the university's Physics and Astronomy Club.


Burrell Schmidt telescope at the Warner & Swasey Observatory at Kitt Peak
The Burrell Schmidt telescope at the Warner and Swasey Observatory at Kitt Peak National Observatory

Observers using the Warner and Swasey Observatory have made important contributions to astronomical research. An early example is work carried out by the observatory's then director, Jason Nassau, on the classification of carbon stars and M-type stars in 1949;[15] more recently, observations made using the Burrell Schmidt telescope led to the discovery of the galaxy Andromeda VIII in 2003. This galaxy orbits the more famous Andromeda Galaxy, and was previously undiscovered due to its position in front of the bright disk of the parent galaxy.[16] The Burrell Schmidt has also recently been used to image the intracluster light in the Virgo Supercluster. The intracluster light is a thousand times fainter than the night sky, and was observed after combining seventy images of the cluster which were taken with the Burrell Schmidt telescope.[17]

See also


  1. ^ Johannesen, Eric (1998). A Cleveland Legacy: The Architecture of Walker and Weeks. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press. pp. 87–88. ISBN 0-87338-589-6.
  2. ^ a b c Claspy, William (2006). "History of the Warner and Swasey Observatory". Warner and Swasey Observatory, Case Western Reserve University. Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2009-08-18.
  3. ^ a b Elek, Tim; Neff, Matt; Solary, Tony. "The History..." The Warner & Swasey Observatory Restoration project. Archived from the original on 2008-07-04. Retrieved 2009-08-18.
  4. ^ O'Malley, Michael (2005-09-07). "Family's New Focus: Turning Old Observatory Into Home". The Plain Dealer. Cleveland, Ohio. Archived from the original on 2011-06-07. Retrieved 2009-08-19.
  5. ^ O'Malley, Michael (2008-01-28). "Nayyir Al Mahdi's dream of turning observatory into home ended with indictment". The Plain Dealer. Cleveland, Ohio. Archived from the original on 2011-06-07. Retrieved 2009-08-19.
  6. ^ Nassau, J.J. (1945). "The Burrell telescope of the Warner and Swasey Observatory". Astrophysical Journal. 101: 275–279. Bibcode:1945ApJ...101..275N. doi:10.1086/144719.
  7. ^ "New Camera Sees "First Light" on Burrell Schmidt Telescope" (pdf). Astronomy Department Newsletter. Case Western Reserve University: 1. September 2008.
  8. ^ Griffith, S. (1997). "Observatory Upgrades Planned as 40th Anniversary arrives". Case Western Reserve University. Retrieved 2009-08-20.
  9. ^ "CWRU's Nassau Telescope Goes Online In December For Public Use". ScienceDaily. 3 December 1998. Retrieved 2009-08-20.
  10. ^ "Geauga Park District purchases Nassau Observatory from Case Western Reserve University" (Press release). Case Western Reserve University. 2008-10-09. Retrieved 2009-08-19.
  11. ^ Rusek, Joan (2012-06-21). "Geauga's Observatory Park Opens Early for Historic View of Venus". Sun News. Retrieved 2012-11-26.
  12. ^ Lundblad, Elizabeth (2012-11-25). "Geauga Park District's Observatory Park Helps Visitors See the Stars". The News-Herald. Retrieved 2012-11-26.
  13. ^ Mangels, John (2009-02-24). "$2 million Geauga park would preserve a patch of dark sky". The Plain Dealer. Cleveland, Ohio. Retrieved 2009-08-19.
  14. ^ a b "Ohio's Observatories: CWRU Observatories". Cuyahoga Astronomical Association. Archived from the original on 2009-09-13. Retrieved 2009-08-18.
  15. ^ Blanco, Victor M. (September 2001). "Telescopes, red stars, and Chilean skies". Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics. 39 (1): 1–18. Bibcode:2001ARA&A..39....1B. doi:10.1146/annurev.astro.39.1.1.
  16. ^ Morrison, H.L.; Harding, P.; Hurley-Keller, D.; Jacoby, G. (2003). "Andromeda VIII: A New Tidally Distorted Satellite of M31". Astrophysical Journal. 596 (2): L183–L186. arXiv:astro-ph/0309254. Bibcode:2003ApJ...596L.183M. doi:10.1086/379625. (Observatory press release)
  17. ^ Mihos, C.; et al. (2005). "Diffuse Light in the Virgo Supercluster". Retrieved 2009-08-18.

External links

Carl Keenan Seyfert

Carl Keenan Seyfert (February 11, 1911 – June 13, 1960) was an American astronomer. He is best known for his 1943 research paper on high-excitation line emission from the centers of some spiral galaxies, which are named Seyfert galaxies after him. Seyfert's Sextet, a group of galaxies, is also named after him.

Jason John Nassau

Jason John Nassau (1893–1965) was an American astronomer.

He performed his doctoral studies at Syracuse, and gained his Ph.D. mathematics in 1920. (His thesis was Some Theorems in Alternants.) He then became an assistant professor at the Case Institute of Technology in 1921, teaching astronomy. He continued to instruct at that institution, becoming the University's first chair of astronomy from 1924 until 1959 and chairman of the graduate division from 1936 until 1940. After 1959 he was professor emeritus.

From 1924 until 1959 he was also the director of the Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) Warner and Swasey Observatory in Cleveland, Ohio. He was a pioneer in the study of galactic structure. He also discovered a new star cluster, co-discovered 2 novae in 1961, and developed a technique of studying the distribution of red (M-class or cooler) stars.

Kitt Peak National Observatory

The Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) is a United States astronomical observatory located on Kitt Peak of the Quinlan Mountains in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert on the Tohono O'odham Nation, 88 kilometers (55 mi) west-southwest of Tucson, Arizona. With 22 optical and two radio telescopes, it is the largest, most diverse gathering of astronomical instruments in the northern hemisphere. The observatory is administered by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO).

Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy

The Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy (MIRA) is an independent, non-profit, professional astronomical observatory dedicated to astronomical education and research, near Monterey, California.

Nicholas Sanduleak

Nicholas Sanduleak (Romanian: Nicolae Sanduleac June 22, 1933 in Lackawanna, New York, United States – May 7, 1990) was an American astronomer.

Paul Alfred Biefeld

Dr. Paul Alfred (22 March 1867 – 21 June 1943) was a German-American electrical engineer, astronomer and teacher.

Robotic telescope

A robotic telescope is an astronomical telescope and detector system that makes observations without the intervention of a human. In astronomical disciplines, a telescope qualifies as robotic if it makes those observations without being operated by a human, even if a human has to initiate the observations at the beginning of the night, or end them in the morning. It may have software agent(s) using Artificial Intelligence that assist in various ways such as automatic scheduling. A robotic telescope is distinct from a remote telescope, though an instrument can be both robotic and remote.

Sidney Wilcox McCuskey

Sidney Wilcox McCuskey (February 28, 1907 – April 22, 1979) was an American mathematician and astronomer.

He was born in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio on February 28, 1907, the son of Charles McCuskey and Lottie (née Wilcox). In 1925 Sidney became an amateur radio hobbyist. He matriculated to the Case School of Applied Science where in 1929 he was awarded a B.S. in Civil Engineering. The following year he received his M.S. in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After a stint at surveying, he was influenced by Jason John Nassau to study astronomy at Harvard University. There his graduate adviser was the Dutch-American astronomer Bart Bok. Receiving his astronomy Ph.D. in 1936 with a thesis titled The Determination of Radial Velocities with the Objective Prism, Dr. McCuskey accepted a job with the department of mathematics at his alma mater, the Case Institute of Technology.Following his service during the Second World War, he became the Levi Kerr professor of mathematics and astronomy, and chair of the department of mathematics at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). During this period he served as an assistant to Jason John Nassau at the Warner and Swasey Observatory. Following Nassau's retirement in 1959, Dr. McCuskey was named director of the observatory and chairman of the department of astronomy for the university. He became the first to occupy the Warner Chair of Astronomy at CWRU, and would hold that position until he retired as professor emeritus in 1975.Dr. McCuskey was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Astronomical Society (AAS); during 1955–1958 he was a councilor for the AAS and in 1966–1968 he served as vice-president. He was an active member of the International Astronomical Union, serving as vice-president of commission 33 during 1967–1970 and president of the same in 1970–1973. He is noted for his contributions to knowledge of the Milky Way galaxy and he wrote several books on mathematics and astronomy during his career. Dying at the age of 72, he was survived by his wife Jeannette (née Scott) and their two sons. The minor planet 2007 McCuskey is named after him.

V354 Cephei

V354 Cephei is a red supergiant star located within the Milky Way. It is an irregular variable located approximately 9,000 light-years away from the Sun, and is currently considered one of the largest known stars and one of most luminous of its type. It has an estimated radius of between 689 and 1,520 solar radii (479,000,000 and 1.057×109 km; 3.20 and 7.07 au). If it were placed in the center of the Solar System, it would extend to between the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn.

William P. Bidelman

William Pendry Bidelman ( BY-dəl-man; September 25, 1918 – May 3, 2011) whose friends called him "Billy", was an American astronomer.

Born in Los Angeles, and raised in North Dakota, he was noted for classifying the spectra of stars, and considered a pioneer in recognizing and classifying sub-groups of the peculiar stars.Bidelman's undergraduate degree was from Harvard College, and his Ph.D. in astronomy was from the University of Chicago under advisor William Wilson Morgan. He was a physicist in the Army during World War II. A professional astronomer for over 50 years, Bidelman taught for ~41 years at The University of Chicago, The University of California,He co-discovered the class of barium stars with Philip Keenan, the phosphorus and the mercury stars, and was the first to describe the hydrogen-deficient carbon stars.Born in Los Angeles, California, Bidelman was raised in North Dakota, where he met his future wife of 69 years. He was a father of four and a grandfather. As an Emeritus Professor William P. Bidelman continued working in astronomy after he retired from teaching, and was 92 when he died in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

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