He Mo'olelo o ka Hale Kilo

An Oral History of the Observatory: Part 1

Next year will mark the 25th Anniversary of CFHT's existence as a major world-class observatory. In celebration of this event, HOKU will publish a series of articles that will recreate the accomplishments of its people and highlight the major technological developements during its first 10 years of operation. Join us in capturing the essence of our remarkable scientific institution.

Dome Crane Cab & Prime Focus Cage

During the 1980s, astronomers had to spend the night riding in the prime focus cage in order to track the object being observed. The astronomer ascended to the cage in a special elevator that is called the dome crane cab. From the dome crane, the astronomer would climb into the open door of the prime focus cage. Once the dome opened, the astronomer would spend as much as ten hours observing the heavens.

The pictures at the left are from the CFHT archive. The picture on the left shows the prime focus cage at the top end of the telescope. Light from the primary mirror below is reflected up into the bottom of the cage and into the camera taking the picture. The picture on the right shows Jacques Baudrand (Meudon Observatory) sitting inside the prime focus cage working on an instrument. This is where the astronomers used to ride while taking photographic plates. Click on the picture to see an enlargement of the photo.

The pictures at the left were taken by Liz Bryson during the filming of the movie below. The first photo is of the telescope. The second photo is the crane cab which would take the astronomer to the top of the telescope, the prime cage at the start of the night. The third and fourth pictures are both of the cab approaching the prime cage at the top of the telescope. Click on the image to see an enlargement of the photo.

Below is a link to the first MPEG movie created in the oral history project. Click on the link but be patient, it will take at least a minute to load and play the movie. You need at least Netscape 6.0 to view the movie.

Movie Inside CFHT Dome