Martin Mobberly and his 19.3″ (49cm) f/4.5 monster

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    Posted by Paul A Brierley at 20:54 on 2010 Feb 15

    I’ve been looking at this telescope on Martins web site. And wanted to know about the company who made it AE.Now I think that this company is know longer in business. But I seem to remember seeing an old catalogue from Telescope House (B C and F) from the mid 70’s showing telescopes made buy this company. Sadly I don’t have any more information.I’d be interested to know, whether there is anybody here with a web address where I can see telescopes made by AE if anybody has any information please can you pass it onto me.I think that these telescopes were at the time, the work horse of most UK amateur astronomers during the 1960s and 1970s and, although some were big, Martins is a fine example. They were British built and looked very professional. Today I’m afraid, with the GOTO revolution, amateur astronomers have it to easy (me included) and we are forgetting what it was like to do Astronomy in those good old day’s.


    Posted by David Arditti at 21:51 on 2010 Feb 15

    I used an AE Dall-Kirkham-Dall Cassegrain for some time. It was featured in a paper I wrote for the Journal (Vol 117 no 3) and I still have a webpage on it here: it is now sold to a new owner. The new owner has a collection of AE scopes which he has lovingly restored. This collection also includes the smaller of Martin’s two AE Newtonians. However, he has no website concerning his collection.AE ceased production around 1980 I think. Jim Hysom, who ran it, continued to make optics under a new company name of Hytel for some time after that. He is now retired, but a restoration job he did for me on the above telescope was one of the last jobs he did.There is not much on the web about AE telescopes. There are still quite a few in use and they sometimes come up on sale on websites such as UK Astronomy Buy&Sell. A feature of the Newtonians generally was the skeleton construction with a single-legged secondary support, which allowed the whole secondary and focuser assembly to be moved up and down the tube, so easily facilitating the different focus positions needed for visual and photographic use. AE scopes were solidly-built and optically excellent and good value for their time, but I expect (hope) Jim will not mind me saying they were necessarily rather crude compared to what is available to amateurs today, and there would be little purpose in acquiring one today except for the historic interest and as a "period-piece".


    Posted by Callum Potter at 22:01 on 2010 Feb 15

    I was talking to Jim Hysom at the Webb Society meeting last December at the IoA. Jim said he often still goes to Cambridge AS meetings, so you might catch him there if you wanted to chat with him.The f/3.9 20" mirror in my Dob was made by Jim. And I went to do a star party at a local school recently, and they carted out this 8" or 10" reflector, which was an AE Optics skeleton scope, just like David describes.Callum


    Posted by Dale Holt at 10:08 on 2010 Feb 16

    Hello PaulI see Jim Hysom on a regular basis and his former senior optical engineer Es Reid at least once a week. Recently there has been a lot of interest in AE. A gentleman in Norfolk, Mark Stuccy has built up a fine collection of AE telescopes (may even be the full range!) It is his intention I belive to build a museum around these in North Norfolk in the near future. Es Reid has been working closely with Mark helping him to document the history of AE.If you send me an email I can put you in touch with EsDale


    Posted by Paul A Brierley at 18:31 on 2010 Feb 17

    Thank you David, and thank you Callum and Dale,David’s web site is very interesting. Had I been of workable age in the 1970’s I would have had one of those telescopes made by AE.It is encouraging to note, in this day and age of US, Japanese and Chinese made telescope. We still have two British manufactures of telescopes Orion Optics and David Lukehurst. So at least we are keeping the tradition alive of British built astronomical equipment.


    Posted by Martin Mobberley at 13:48 on 2010 Feb 21

    Well,As I’m the subject of this discussion I might as well comment!David, Dale and Callum have already covered much of thesubject already though. My 14" Cass/Newt f/20, f/5 was madeby the Hysom brothers in 1980 (I was 22). In those days itwas really a choice between Fullerscopes and AE. I’d prettymuch decided on AE due to their beefy mounts. In 1980 I wroteto Fullerscopes and AE about a custom 14". Fullerscopes neverreplied(!) but I got an instant reply from Rob Hysom of AE…It cost £4,115.85 in 1980…..a LOT of money.I used the 14" from 1980 to 2003 and gave it away to Mark Stuckey last year (2009)….he is the Norfolk AE collector.In 1991 Jim and Rob Hysom were separate entities but theyagreed to make me a 19.3" f/4.5 Newt for my Chelmsford house where I lived in the working week. I used that telescope from 1992 to 2002 and gave that away in 2008 to Glyn Marshwho lives on the Isle of Man. That behemoth cost about £10K!Jim Hysom knew Horace Dall well and AE was, in many ways,inspired by Dall. I went to my first BAA Winchester Weekendin 1975 and there used to be a 10" AE in a dome there atthe old King Alfred’s College. I remember as a 17 year oldqueueing for ages to look through it at Saturn. My AE telescopes were indestructible and the 14" lasted 23 yearsof regular use without a single problem. By comparison, a12" Meade LX200 I bought in 1997 lasted one night before acatastrophic failure!!! I think the last big telescope thatthe Hysom brothers made was Richard McKim’s 16" Cass whichhe still uses….that was around 1995 or so I think?The only reason I gave away the AE telescopes was thatthey were brutes to move around the sky and user unfriendly.But in terms of reliability and solid performance theywere excellent. The 18" wormwheel on the 19.3" Newt trackedas well as my Paramount ME, but there was no GO TO of course!BTW, Mobberley is spelt ‘ley’ at the end! ;-)Hope this is of interest…..Martin


    Posted by David Arditti at 20:16 on 2010 Feb 21

    Interesting that Martin says his 19" had a wormwheel as accurate as that of a Paramount. I am surprised, as the 10" AE Dall-Kirkham-Dall had a very inaccurate drive in its C-type GEM, with a PE of about 1 minute, and I have read elsewhere on the web a comment about problems with PE on AE drives. It seems that they varied a good deal. Also the C-type GEM had a very weird constructional idea whereby the worms rotated in holes actually bored through the main castings of the mount, which could never work well, as there was no way to tune the placing of the worm with respect to the wheel. Other manufacturers of the time, e.g. Irving and Fuller, at least had the sense to make the worm casting a separate section. The mount of the 10" Cassegrain was really its most unsatisfactory feature. Another problem was the lack of any method of clamping the axes, which made the telescope very hard to handle. Again, Irving and Fuller had the sense to provide clamps.Richard McKim’s telescope is I believe a hybrid construction from several different sources, though the mount clearly shows AE components, and I think the optics are by Hysom.


    Posted by Martin Mobberley at 21:11 on 2010 Feb 21

    Hello David,You say you are surprised (about the tracking), but think of the timescales involved. Every manufacturer learns from its mistakes and the AE mounts from their earliest days (the late 1960s and 70s) are completely different to those from the 1980sonwards. My 14" was on a modified C type head and the wormhousing was very poorly designed. Like all telescopes of thatera guiding with a separate guidescope was required. But the1992 built 19.3 inch with its 18 inch wormwheel was a totally different design with the worm position adjustable and held ina solid ball race. After 25 years in business it would have been amazing if Rob Hysom’s design had not changed…. In addition the 19.3 inch was a much larger instrument than the usual AE amateur telescope, although they made quite a few massive telescopes like the 16-inch Cross Axis at Armagh and Hatfield Polytechnic and the 24 inch at Keele.Both my 14 and 19.3 inch instruments had very good axis clamps. Richard’s C type AE mount is virtually identicalto the one I gave to Mark Stuckey. As you say, the opticswere by Jim. It is not a pure AE but then neither wasmy 19.3 inch….the focuser and setting circles were made by another company. After Jim moved from Luton to Cambridge the era of pure AE telescopes ended….indeed before the late 1970s AE was more than just Jim and his brother. There were other characters (Goddard, Shuttlewood and the Astrotech drive people) involved. Incidentally, in 1987 I went on a trip to an observatory in Somerset where there was an 18 inch f/6 Newtonian (Charterhouse) made by Fullerscopes. An impressive beast, with, as you say, a worm held in a substantial block.Nick James drove me to see it and use it. However, on the subject of having any design ‘sense’ it was hysterically badly designed. The worm appeared to be made from hardened steel, but the aluminium wheel was as soft as butter. Every time the worm rotated another tooth on the wheel was shaved off and ended up as swarf in the worm housing…..half the teeth had disappeared after a few years of use. So, yes, the early AE worm designs were poor, but the big Fullerscopes worm and wheel designs were catastrophic. By contrast the AE wheels of the ’80s were phosphor bronze!!! I guess there is probably a single tooth left on that wheel now….if the telescope exists at all! It’s difficult to find any manufacturer whose mounts have no shortfalls, with the exception of Software Bisque and Astrophysics.Martin


    Posted by Dale Holt at 11:15 on 2010 Feb 23

    Absolutely fascinating (and I didn’t even ask the initial question) thanks for posting that Martin.The figures you quote for your past telescope purchases should make us realise just how lucky we are to have decent & useable telescopes and mounts available at much lower cost and that is without factoring in inflationary values.Once again Martin thanks for that history & to Paul for the original post.Kind regards, Dale


    Posted by Paul A Brierley at 18:25 on 2010 Feb 23

    Hi Guy’s,That is very interesting reading Martin, thank you.I’ve been in touch with Mark who has the collection of AE telescopes. He told me that he’s hoping to have a web site up and running in the near future, devoted to the history of this company. The larger AE telescope’s looked very professional. But as Martin has pointed out, difficult to move around the sky.Does anybody here know anybody still making Fork mountings?


    Posted by David Arditti at 21:20 on 2010 Feb 23

    Beacon Hill Telescopes have made fork mountings in recent times though they are not, shall I say, the most sophisticated constructions.Mathis Instruments in the States make big and impressive forks as do RCOS and others, but this is all highly-expensive and massive engineering on the amateur-professional borderline. Nothing else I know of in Europe.


    Posted by Andrea Tasselli at 12:35 on 2010 Feb 24

    There are a number of companies in Germany, Switzerland and Italy that make them (fork mounts), I must have the details somewhere if you’re interested. GTD in Hungary also make them, see here: it helpsAndrea T.


    Posted by Dale Holt at 11:41 on 2010 Feb 25

    Beacon Hill mounts, fabricated to order by Barrie Watts are agreeably "Agricultural" but represent excellent value for money and when coupled to AWR drive systems give good performance for visual & video applications. I am very pleased with mine and have recently increased the size of the telescope it carries from 14" to 20"Dale


    Posted by Jeremy at 19:34 on 2010 Feb 25

    Hello Martin,ah! the Charterhouse telescope in Somerset. That brings back memories. I spent a week down there as a schoolboy on an astronomy course at the end of that long hot summer in ’76. We used the 18 inch Fullerscope every night – I had never looked through such a large telescope before and was hugely impressed. However, the mount was very awkward to use. The whole thing finally broke on the last night. I think one of the counterweights fell off the tube, causing it to become dangerously unbalanced. Three lads had to support the tube on their heads until help arrived!Fond memories!Go well!Jeremy


    Posted by David Arditti at 13:16 on 2010 Feb 27

    That’s a very nice setup Dale. I recognise the style of the mount. It is similar to the one on the 20" Peter Garbett had or maybe still has. Interesting and good idea with the black shield just on the side of the telescope away from the observer to darken his view.


    Posted by Paul A Brierley at 09:52 on 2010 Feb 28

    That does look very impressive Dale,I like the look of this type of telescope and mounting system. Fork mounts may have there faults, I am sure. But for visual observing with a Newtonian, and a large one, on an EQ mount, It can be difficult. This is where the Fork mount wins.I can imagine that Sir Patrick Moore would have struggled to make observations, had his 15inch Fullerscopes been on an equatorial mount instead of a fork mounting.I remember when I owned a 12" Orion DX300 on a Vixen GP-DX and latterly a G11. I seldom used it because it was awkward looking into the eyepiece when the telescope was pointing towards the zenith.Do do any visual observing with this monster? Or is it just used with you’re Minitron camera?


    Posted by David Arditti at 19:37 on 2010 Feb 28

    Newtonians on German equatorial mounts are no problem for looking into if you make the tube rotatable, Paul, as I have done on my 245 mm. Unfortunately manufacturers no longer make this as standard. Fullerscopes used to!


    Posted by Dale Holt at 13:35 on 2010 Mar 01

    Dear David & Paul,I have sadly I have recently parted with the optical tube shown mounted in the picture. That was a 14" F5 with a very smooth and well corrected David Hind’s mirror, it gave me awesome planetary views when seeing allowed and breath taking deep sky voyages when the Moon was absent. Coupled with the Watec camera it took me to places in the universe that is normally the preserve of 25" plus mirrors under dark skies.Paul in answer to your question it was both a instrument I enjoyed using with both eyepiece and video camera.I now have installed a new tube with a fine F.37 mirror by Es Reid (ex AE). The Superscopes 6" F9 triplet refractor I prefer for Lunar, Solar and planetary work still rides atop, and first light with the big mirror is anticipated daily.Thank you for your kind interest & comments.Dale 🙂


    Posted by Terry Byatt at 19:19 on 2010 Mar 01

    In the early 1970’s AE were based in Luton, Bedfordshire and Telescope House (BC&F) then known as Fullerscopes were their rivals based in North London.To be honest, the optics were just as good from both companies. However, AE (Astronomical Equipment) had the "edge" on the quality of the mounting. Fullerscopes were cheaper to buy which meant you could buy from them a 8.5 inch reflector for the price of a 6 inch from AE (often with optics from the same maker). Fullerscope enable many amatuers with a limited budget to have a telescope of decent power without having the skills to build their own Now I’ve shown my age!!


    Posted by Phil Bourke at 07:43 on 2010 Mar 03

    You’re quite right, Terry, the biggest difference between these ‘scopes was their overall finish. The amount of bright metal visable in a Fullerscopes tube was quite remarkable and the mount, although sturdy, needed some work to bring it up to standard. This was, of course, reflected in the price. Bottom line was that to buy Fullerscopes and then invest an amount of elbow grease would give you a good ‘scope at a very reasonable price.

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