years brought the introduction of 'artificial intelligence' and
the serious implications of engineering intelligent behavior.
Automatic (robotic) telescopes are not simply remotely operated,
but involve some level of machine intelligence, enabling a
telescope to act without the direct initiative of an operator.
Examples include a telescope that
senses weather, initiates, slews to a pre-programmed list of stars
for photometry, then shuts down after the night; or a space-based
gamma ray telescope that triggers a land-based optical telescope
to slew to a gamma ray burst and observe the spectrum of the
This development of the
capabilities of the telescope is profound in a manner surpassing
the ubiquitous automation of modern life: large modern telescopes
gather data at a stupendous rate, and rely on artificial
intelligence to deal with the deluge.
Peter Abrahams enjoys
studying the history of the telescope so much that, to obtain more
computer time, he resigned from the RCA board after 8 years as an
officer. He is more typically an armchair astronomer than an
eyepiece astronomer, recently selling his 16 inch dob to gain
storage space, and now reduced to a 6 inch Mak and a few old (Old)
refractors. But a larger & portable dob is in his future.
Meanwhile, there are dozens of interesting subjects in the history
of binoculars and telescopes to occupy his time. In particular,
the history of amateur astronomy in the Portland area includes
some fantastic telescopes that need more attention. Papers and
bibliographies can be found on his web site: