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InStAR Books

The Alt-Az Initiative: Telescope, Mirror, and Instrument Developments

Edited by Russell M. Genet, Jolyon M. Johnson, and Vera Wallen 

Foreword by Richard Berry

Softcover • $29.95

Lightweight, low cost, portable 1- 2-meter telescopes are being developed by the Alt-Az Initiative, an enthusiastic group of amateur telescope makers, instrumentalists, and professional astronomers pushing the state-of-the-art for the fun of it. They combine their own ideas with high tech ideas borrowed from giant mountaintop telescopes. This book is a snapshot in time of their development efforts. Some will pan out. Others will fall by the wayside. Read about their adventures.  Warning: You may be inspired to join them!


Softcover • $29.95

About the Authors

Richard Berry writes books and computer software from his home on the wet western side of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. His books include The Handbook of Astronomical Image Processing with its AIP4Win software (with Jim Burnell), Build Your Own Telescope, The Dobsonian Telescope: a Practical Manual for Building Large Aperture Telescopes (with Dave Kriege), and The CCD Camera Cookbook (with Viekko Kanto and John Munger) – all published with Willmann-Bell. You can find more on his website


Russell Genet is the founder of the Astronomy Research Seminars. He is a Research Scholar in Residence at California Polytechnic University, an Adjunct Professor of Astronomy at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, CA, and an Editor of the Journal of Double Star Observations. You can find more on his website

Jolyon Johnson is a physics teacher at Sammamish High School in Bellevue, Washington and also an Editor of the Journal of Double Star Observations. He was also a participant and long-time assistant instructor in the original Astronomy Research Seminars. 


Vera Wallen is a retired public school district superintendent and teacher with 40 years experience in education. Dr. Wallen focused her career on leading special students to achieve their full potential and maximizing faculty application of the latest learning research. A life-long dreamer of space travel, she took her first astronomy class from Russ Genet at Cuesta College in her 10th year of retirement on the central coast of California and has served as copy editor for the first two volumes of the Alt-Az Initiative books.

The Alt-Az Initiative Contents

PART I: Introduction

  • The Small Research Telescope Challenge: National Academies of Science Astro 2010 Position Paper (Russell Genet, David Rowe, Daniel Gray, Susana Deustua, Andrew Aurigema, Howard Banich, Mel Bartels, Richard Berry, Craig Breckenridge, Peter Chen, Gary Cole, David Davis, Joe Haberman, Rick Hedrick, Arne Henden, Jolyon Johnson, Greg Jones, Tong Liu, Robert Nelson, John Ridgely, Greg Rohde, Kiran Shah, Thomas Smith, Vera Wallen, and Xiao-Hua Yu)

  • Alt-Az Light Bucket Astronomy (Russell Genet and Bruce Holenstein)

  • Small Telescopes and Astronomical Research (Russell M. Genet)

  • The Portland III Alt-Az Initiative Workshop (Howard Banich, Russell Genet, and Richard Berry)

  • Visit to Gemini and Subaru 8-Meter Telescopes on Mauna Kea (Russ Genet, Dan Gray, Chris Carter, Michael Sheehan, Daigo Tomono, Hideki Takami, Cheryl Genet, and Jon Archambeau)

  • Return to Mauna Kea: Telescope Structures and Active Primary Mirrors (Russell M. Genet)


Photographic Interlude: Alt-Az Initiative Workshops and Conferences

PART II: Telescope Developments

  • Alt-Az Telescopes for Research, Astrophotography, and Education (Russ Genet, Dan Gray, Howard Banich, Dave Rowe, Tom Smith, and Tom Krajci)

  • An 18-Inch Direct Drive Alt-Az Telescope (Russ Genet, Dave Rowe, Dan Gray, Tong Liu, John Ridgely, Howard Banich, Cary Chelborad, Allan Keller,Billy Albertson, Wilson Chiu, Michelle Kirkup, Drew Murphy, Josh Schmidt, Matt Swanson, and Rob Urban)

  • A Corrected Dall Kirkham Nasmyth-Focus Telescope (Dave Rowe, Rick Hedrick, Dan Gray, Joe Haberman, Bob Peasley, Allan Keller, Kevin Iott, and Russ Genet)

  • SpicaEyes: A Unique Line of Metal Telescopes (Tom Osypowski)

  • Telescope Portability: Moving a Big Telescope Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult (Howard Banich)

  • One-Meter Portable Alt-Az Telescopes (Russell Genet, George Roberts, Reed Estrada, and Chris Estrada)

  • Sensible Telescope Enclosure Design (Craig Breckenridge)

  • MAGIC: The World’s Largest Cherenkov Telescope (Michele Doro)

Photographic Interlude: Alt-Az Telescopes

PART III: Lightweight Mirror Developments

  • An Introduction to Lightweight Mirror Developments (Russell Genet, Andrew Aurigema, Steve Badger, Mel Bartels, K. Lisa Brodhacker, Rodolfo Canestrari, Peter Chen, Mike Connelley, David Davis, Mauro Ghigo, Greg Jones, Tong Liu, Eric Mendez, Giovanni Pareschi, Terry Richardson, David Rowe, Josh Schmidt, Kiran Shah, and Efrain Villasenor)

  • Figures of Merit for Light Bucket Mirrors (Bruce D. Holenstein, Richard J. Mitchell, and Robert H. Koch)

  • Meniscus Mirrors (Mel Bartels)

  • Active Optics for Thin Meniscus Telescope Mirrors (Michael Connelley)

  • Hogging With Heat: Slumping Meniscus Mirrors in a Homemade Kiln (David Davis)

  • Glass Foam Composite Mirror Developments (Andrew Aurigema, David Davis, and Russell Genet)

  • Graphite Fiber Nano-Composite Mirror Technology (Peter C. Chen)

  • Replica Processes for Mirror Manufacturing: Glass Slumping and Foamglas Backing (Rodolfo Canestrari, Mauro Ghigo, and Giovanni Pareschi)

  • Replica Polyurethane Foam Mirrors for Photometric Applications (Kiran Shah)

  • Experiments with Pneumatically-Formed Metalized Polyester Mirrors (Bruce D. Holenstein, Richard J. Mitchell, Dylan R. Holenstein, Kevin A. Iott, and Robert H. Koch)

  • Spinning the Way to a Perfect Figure: Spin-Cast Polymer Mirrors (Terry R. Richardson and K. Lisa Brodhacker)


Photographic Interlude: Lightweight Mirrors

PART V: Instruments, Techniques, and Software

  • The Bath Interferometer (Vladimir Galogaza)

  • Lucky Imaging for High Resolution Measurements of Double Stars (Rainer Anton)

  • High Speed Photometry: Detection and Analysis Techniques (John Menke and Gary A. Vander Haagen)

  • Automated Time-Series Spectroscopy with a Small Telescope (Gary M. Cole)

  • Spectroscopy for Eclipsing Binary Light Curve Analysis (Robert H. Nelson)

  • RTS2: Open Source Autonomous Observatory Control (Petr Kubànek)


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