Pocket: Sidereal

Discussion in 'Chronometers' started by Paul Regan, Oct 9, 2017.

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  1. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

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    Hello All,
    Here is a Waltham Model '92 Sidereal. Were these ever used in navigation or were they strictly an Observatory horology tool? Oh, BTW, I thought the watch deserved a nice home so I made the box last week. I am a better woodworker then horologist!
    Paul
    DSCN5945 (2).JPG DSCN5949.JPG DSCN5941.JPG DSCN5942.JPG
     
  2. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Paul,

    Very nice watch and certainly a outstanding piece of workmanship on the box!

    I've been looking into the Sidereal timing instruments for some time now and have arrived at some conclusions. Astronomy is the oldest of the Sciences and as soon as man determined the Earth wasn't flat and the Sun didn't orbit it but the other way around Astronomers have learned a great deal about the Universe we live in.

    When we look up at the stars and they appear to move from east to west in the sky we learned that they are actually fixed in position and it's the Earth's rotation that gives that illusion. While the Earth,in its rotation isn't a perfect timekeeper it is a near perfect one which allows us to determine the length of rotation or day by using the stars.This is refereed to as Sidereal time. The length of the Sidereal day is shorter than the mean solar day by approximately 3 minutes and 53 seconds.Prior to the advanced modern "Atomic Clocks" Astronomers used measuring the elapsed time between two successful passages of the same star across a local meridian. This was accomplished by observing those two star passages with a transit telescope which is fixed in a North/ South plane so that it can record time measurements when these stars cross the meridian. Universal Time (UT) is based on the rotation of the earth and is calculated from Greenwich Mean Sidereal Time and called UTI.

    The great horologist John Harrison used a known star then measured and timed alongside his neighbors chimney to determine his clocks accurate to +/- 1 second per month.With more modern equipment astronomers achieved accuracy in the hundredths of a second. The Transit telescope and sidereal marine break circuit chronometer were designed just for measuring and recording these timing events.

    Astronomers require the correct Sidereal Local Time to navigate the sky in a similar fashion a ship's navigator would the oceans or a surveyor on land. On land two coordinates are required to "fix" a position accurately and they are called latitude and longitude. Astronomers call their coordinates Declination (latitude) or height above the horizon measured in degrees. The second coordinate,where the time is most important, is refereed to as the Right Ascension (longitude) which is the position of a object measured in hours,minutes and seconds (Sidereal Local Time).

    Astronomical regulators were housed at Observatories usually in a special vault or ,"clock room" to control temperature and humidity and placed on very heavy foundations. So in order to carry that time to the actual Telescope/s at an observatory a portable box or pocket (pocket watch) set to sidereal time rate was used. This and any other function that was required to measure sidereal rate was accomplished with these instruments. Here is what a transit telescope looks like. Also pictured is the recording drum or chronograph.

    -212f6780378e1631.jpg Allegheny Observatory 9-23-11 005.JPG
     
  3. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

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    Wow, thanks for the primer on Sidereal time. Great explanation, makes me hungry for more. So the '92 was basically a comparing watch for astronomy.
    Paul
     
  4. burt

    burt Registered User
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    #4 burt, Oct 10, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2017
    Paul,

    Here is a rare picture I've looked to find for several years. In my opinion it give evidence that yes pocket chronometers/ pocket watches timed to sidereal rate were used in observatories to "take sidereal time" to the telescope. This photo clearly shows a pocket instrument on the observers desk at the Allegheny Observatory's Thaw refractor telescope. The photo is from the circa.1914 period. I personally talked with an astronomer observer who used this telescope in the 1960-1970 era. While that practice was by then replaced he believes that there was no reason to have a chronometer watch at the telescope that kept standard time.Today almost all modern and most older telescopes were modified to use computer controlled mounts and needing sidereal time has been obsoleted. The photo' show the observer's desk close up with the watch and the desk at the base of the telescope base.

    -cc5f9223c2ccfd41.jpg oldthaw.jpg
     
  5. gmeyer4

    gmeyer4 Registered User
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    Damn nice watch and box there Paul.
     
  6. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

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    Hey thank you George, I really like making the boxes for these watches as well as the chronometers.
    Paul
     
  7. burt

    burt Registered User
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    #7 burt, Oct 29, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2017
    Here is a box chronometer example and its master clock that are located at the Lowell Observatory at Flagstaff,Arizona. While the tag on the chronometer describes a "normal marine chronometers" function this one was run on sidereal time as the Howard clock on display next to it. Both are now on static display. I doubt it was used for maritime usage after 1916 when purchased for the observatory as it is located in Northern Arizona. Here is where Percival Lowell made his "famous" observations of the planet Mars and where the planet Pluto was discovered.

    The chronometer itself was built by the Richard Hornby and Son/s (James and Henry) firm of Liverpool, England. As none of the several telescopes at the observatory are located in a single building I think this gives additional support to just what sidereal chronometers were built for and that is to take "sidereal time to these instruments". Break circuit chronometers would be used at observatories that had transit telescopes to measure sidereal time. The Elgin Watch Co. Observatory ("Timed by the Stars") and some others (Wempe) operated as such. Remember it is sidereal time that was utilized to compute to universal time as the stars are used to measure the rotation of the earth. .

    Sedona and Grand Canyon 278.JPG Sedona and Grand Canyon 280.JPG
     
  8. burt

    burt Registered User
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    #8 burt, Nov 5, 2017
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2017
    Here are a couple of great pictures that I think better illustrate how obtaining sidereal time was accomplished. Both are from the U.S.N.O. in the early 1900's. The observer is at the transit telescope with his hand on a switch which is connected to a recording chronograph. In this case he has a sidereal astronomical regulator as seen in the background of the second picture to time his seconds ticks. Regulators with a good positive and loud tick were preferred. Good vision,hearing and quick reaction time were essential to record the "timing stars" as they crossed a very fine reticle in the eyepiece of the telescope. Early reticle's were made of spider webbing.This must have been a very uncomfortable and tedious job as no heat or cool air could be injected into the observatory. Air inside must be the same as the outside air so as not to effect the telescope negatively with air currents and distort the star image. As America was a growing giant in the world economy the need for accurate time was very important. The U.S.N.O. started transmitting their time signals in the early 1870's and these were the instruments and how it was done. (Library of Congress photos)

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  9. burt

    burt Registered User
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    #9 burt, Nov 7, 2017
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2017
    I know a lot of people aren't reading this thread and the comments are few but I just had to post this chronometer. Perhaps someone down the road will benefit from the threads information and appreciate its content.This is the clock/chronometer combination that was used at Allegheny Observatory from its beginning in the early 1859. Both clock and chronometer keep sidereal time. Both instruments are by Frodsham and the chronometer is just a fantastic example of the maker, in its beautiful rosewood box and silvered 24 hour dial. What I really was excited about was the paper work from 1925 that accompanied the chronometer photos.No doubt after repair or servicing, from the William Bond shop, that included some cautionary warnings his signature. I've waited two years to get these and want to credit Lou Coban, for digging the instrument out of storage and taking the pictures. I have no doubt what so ever that sidereal chronometers were purchased to do exactly what I have been posting here. They certainly had other uses but taking sidereal time to telescopes and from transit instruments is a fact. I've investigated several observatories and all had the combination of clock and chronometer.

    1 (1).jpg 1 (4).jpg 1.jpg 1 (2).jpg 1 (3).jpg Allegheny Observatory 9-23-11 001.JPG Allegheny Observatory 9-23-11 002.JPG
     
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  10. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

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    Stunning combination Burt. I love to study the matching grain on these beautiful Rosewood boxes. The flaming mahogany on the tall case clock is beautiful also.
    Thanks for posting.
     
  11. musicguy

    musicguy Moderator
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    Very nice, thanks for sharing the photographs and history.

    Rob
     
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  12. burt

    burt Registered User
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    #12 burt, Nov 16, 2017
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2017
    As I have these in my collection I thought I'd post the two watch companies,I mentioned earlier, that built and maintained observatories for establishing correct sidereal time to convert to universal time. Both observatories were built in the 1912 time frame. Wempe out of the need as no "time signal" was available in the region and the Elgin Watch Co.,more than likely for marketing. I say this as the Naval Observatory was up and running providing this service from the 1870's. Elgin used the "Timed by the Stars" slogan in advertising and some collectors think the "Star" image on certain watch dials.
    Most other American watch and clock companies and even some research observatories maintained very accurate regulator clocks, such as Hamilton and Lowell but even these would have to be checked against a time signal from a observatory which maintained a transit instrument and its auxiliary equipment.

    250px-Elgin_Observatory.JPG Wempe-Glashuette-Portraet-Himmelskunde-Uhrmacherkunst-Magazin-Himmelskunde-Stage.jpg
     
  13. burt

    burt Registered User
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    #13 burt, Nov 16, 2017
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2017
    "The Elgin Watch Company more than likely for marketing" If it wasn't it seems like a lot of unnecessary expense as the U.S.N.O. started sending out the signals (free) by radio in 1904.

    m_10_01_factory_tour.jpg star_trademark.jpg
     
  14. PatH

    PatH National Program Chair
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    Thanks for this thread, Burt.

    In addition to Waltham and Elgin, Illinois also built an onsite observatory.

    Ilinois Watch Co observatory.jpg
     
  15. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Pat,

    Thank you for thinking me! I appreciate your comment and the additional information you supplied to the thread. When these for profit companies established observatories I think reinforces the importance they must have placed on having accurate time available at their locations regardless of expense. I also don't think this subject,of sidereal time, was ever fully explained or discussed on this board. No matter what type of timing instrument we collect,clocks,marine chronometers,pocket watches or wrist watches they were all designed to keep accurate time and what I wanted to explain is how we obtained that base line defined so long ago of 1/86,000 seconds = one rotation of the earth, or one day.
     
  16. PatH

    PatH National Program Chair
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    I agree wholeheartedly. I gave a program on time-balls to our local chapter in January, tying it back to the New Year's Eve dropping of the ball. While researching that program, I learned much about the importance of accurate time and the connections between observatories, time-balls, chronometers, time signals and standard time. Interestingly, there was an observatory in San Francisco that was established by a couple of jewelers who specialized in repairing chronometers. This is mentioned in Dr. Barclay Stephens' December 1961 Bulletin article called "Time Balls"

    I'm by no means an expert, but I do find this a fascinating topic. Hoping others will join in on this topic!
     
  17. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    When I was a student at Park College in Parkville MO, the college observatory had a transit instrument in addition to the observatory telescope and a Riefler regulator. I think there were many such installations and reliability of time signals from the national source(s) may have been a bit of the motivation. It was also for training astronomers in the subject matter.

    When I was there in the 1950's the observatory was out of use and the Riefler was in pieces in the Physics Dept. closet. Years later I went back to look for it and the observatory had been restored and the Riefler was in operation there. (The college had made a lot of money digging limestone and building a storage facility deep underground.)
     
  18. PatH

    PatH National Program Chair
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    To provide a little more background on the Illinois observatory, there are several articles about the observatory and sidereal time in the booklet "Illinois Watches and Their Makers" that was first printed by the Illinois Watch Company circa 1920. I have a reprint from the SOR in 1999.

    One article called "How Accurate Time is Taken From the Stars At The Illinois Watch Company's Astronomical Observatory" explains how sidereal time is obtained, as well as a bit about a Greenwich observatory and standard time. The following excerpt pertains to the observatory's value to the Illinois factory, "...Each time the key is touched to record the crossing of a star, the pen connected with the key "jumps." When the observation is concluded, the space between the marks made by the Sidereal Clock pen and the observation pen are measured by a rule divided into hundredths of an inch. As each pen covers a half inch of space in a second, a difference of 1/100 of an inch between "jumps" indicates that the Sidereal Clock is just 2/100 of a second fast or slow. These observations are taken daily and afford an unvarying standard by which our master clocks are kept regulated, and these in turn supply the standard which is so rigidly followed in adjusting and timing of "Illinois" - the world's finest watches."

    Time signals were also sent out at noon and 8 in the evening (Central time) from the Company's wireless station in the observatory. As a side note, this wireless station was "a great school for amateur wireless operators during the war and Mr. Johnson is known far and wide for his work in connection with it." George F. Johnson was Superintendent of the Watch Company and Custodian of the Watch Company Observatory. Since the original booklet was from the 20s, I'm assuming the war reference is to WWI.

    One of the telescopes was bought by Bradley University, but never used. It was later moved and is now in use at the Northmoor Observatory near a Peoria golf course, and is open to the public at certain times.
     
  19. PatH

    PatH National Program Chair
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    How interesting, Tom. Thanks for sharing.

    It seems that was the fate of many time balls and observatories. Although I haven't run across anything on one at Park College, I did find references to a time ball and observatory at Doane University in Crete NE. After years in the attic, the time ball is now on display and they have an observatory as part of the University.
     
  20. burt

    burt Registered User
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    #20 burt, Nov 17, 2017
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2017
    Pat,

    Thanks for posting that section of the Illinois observatory article and adding such detailed information to the thread. May I add that a transit sighting can only be taken on clear nights and several days may pass before a measurement can be taken. This is where the very accurate regulators developed by Riefler worked in conjunction with the astronomer. Riefler "tank" regulators could keep accurate time to +/- 0.003- 0.004 seconds per day. This accuracy along with the precision of the transit telescope and chronograph were a remarkable combination. This also proves I think even if a "broadcast time signal" were not that reliable time to the second would not be compromised. If you read all the watch company hype on the subject I think perhaps "prestige" was a motivating factor in the establishment of these observatories. As I mentioned Hamilton had a Riefler regulator (now at the N.A.W.C.C. museum) and relied on a time broadcast signal.
    In the earliest of days observatories with "Time service" functions sold accurate time to various cities and the American railroads and others. This was done over the telegraph wire but once the U.S. navy started their broadcasting over the air this practice came to an end.
    I also agree with Tom that some of these "Time service" observatories were set up for students and training.
     
  21. River rat

    River rat Registered User
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    Nice watch and real nice job making the box.
     
  22. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

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    Thank you River Rat, I really appreciate the feedback.
    Paul
     
  23. Snapper

    Snapper Registered User

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    Thanks to all who have contributed to the sidereal time discussion. Whilst I have a good understanding of how chronometers are/were used at sea, the mysteries of observatory use was just that to me. It's also fascinating to see instruments in their places of use and with the bonus of contemporary documents.
     
  24. River rat

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    Since were talking sidereal watches here is a cool link about the last military watch that used it a Heuer Bund one of these days I will buy the two books Knirim wrote were this article came from. This Heuer was used for astronavigation so it had other uses than in a observatory.
    homepage
     
  25. B Beck

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    Great Info on the Sidereals ! Burt, my good friend never ceases to amaze me, GOOD JOB SIR !!
     

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