The telescope in the woods
I met Sandijs of Froont fame when I was in Austin for Artifact back in May. He mentioned how he’d like to put on an event in his home city of Riga, and I said I’d be up for that. So last weekend I popped over to Latvia to speak at an event he organised at a newly-opened co-working space in the heart of Riga.
That was on Friday, so Jessica I had the rest of the weekend to be tourists. Sandijs rented a car and took us out into the woods. There, in the middle of a forest, was an observatory: the Baldone Schmidt telescope.
The day we visited was the Summer soltice and we were inside the observatory getting a tour of the telescope at the precise moment that the astronomical summer began.
It’s a beautiful piece of machinery. It has been cataloging and analysing carbon stars since the ’60s.
Nowadays, the images captured by the telescope go straight into a computer, but they used to be stored on glass plates. Those glass plates are now getting digitised too. There’s one person doing all the digitising. It takes about forty minutes to digitise one glass plate. There are approximately 22,000 glass plates in the archive.
It’s going to be a long process. But once all that data is available in a machine-readable format, there will inevitably be some interesting discoveries to made from mining that treasure trove.
The telescope has already been used to discover a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt. It’s about 1.5 kilometers wide. Its name is Baldone.