Project Archive

MHO 2011 Project Summary
MHO 2010 Project Summary
Vacuum Chamber Roof Repairs
MHO Volunteers Finish Masonry Repairs
Ham Radio Club - QSO Contest
Dome Automation - Tom Hagen

MHO 2011 Project Summary

MHO 2010 Project Summary

Special Thanks to Kris and Wes!

Kris and Wes cooking

Their fine culinary efforts at practically all the Saturday work sessions have
produced these sumptuous repasts:

  • Dutch oven venison chili with a cornbread cap
  • Burger Fry
  • Chili cheese dog day
  • St. Patty’s Day Irish Stew
  • Paella a la Valenciana flavored with lemon, olive oil, and saffron
  • Mexican Crunch Wrap Picnic
  • Ground Hog, Mardi Gras Swamp Party
  • WinterWonderland Picnic
  • Lumberjack Party
  • Swedish Meatballs
  • Seafood Gumbo and Jambalaya


The Work Goes On: Vacuum Chamber Roof Repairs

Vacuum chamber roof repairs Vacuum chamber roof repairs

The corrugated aluminum roof over the vacuum chamber has been in need of some repairs after tree limbs have pierced the roof. Ed, Tom and Wes set up the scaffolding on the south side to start these repairs. After this is complete, they will move to the north side to patch that hole.


MHO volunteers finish masonry repairs

Limestone repair

It's been over five years since a giant limb fell off the big oak tree in the parking lot and hit the main building, damaging the limestone parapet over the front door. This year we made the needed repairs. Wes Fowler, Reid Beauchamp, Ed Hendry, and Tom Hagen took on the role of amateur masons and got the job done.

When the big limb hit, two 200 pound vertical facing stones near the top of the parapet fell 27 feet to the ground. One was smashed beyond repair and the other was miraculously undamaged by the fall. Above these facing stones are the four flat-lying capstones which for the most part escaped damage. None of the capstones fell off the roof and have remained in place for the last five years.

Our first task was to purchase a new 200 lb. limestone block, 41.5"x15"x3". Jim Kinsler, MHO owner, kindly donated and erected scaffolding for the job, and Ed provided a block and tackle. On the first day (Nov. 8, 2008), we hoisted the new block and the undamaged original stone up to the roof. Then we mortared the original stone in position with its steel retaining strap.

The following Saturday, Nov. 15, it was raining a fair amount, but we mortared in the new stone and re-set another vertical facing stone which had been knocked loose by the tree limb.
All that was left to do was replace the capstones on top of the vertical facing stones now in place.

Masonry repair - day 1

Freezing weather prevented us from working again until Sunday, Dec. 14. There was significant snowfall and we had to chip about 3-4" of ice and snow off the capstones before we could even start work! Temperatures were running in the balmy 40° range and the weather forecast predicted we would have above-freezing temperatures for the next 24 hours. We cut a strip of roofing material and placed it on top of the facing stones and laid in the capstones. We finished the job just before the rain started.

Masonry day 3


Ham Operators Enjoy Successful QSO Party

by Dave Benham

The newly formed McMath Hulbert Astronomical Society Radio Club got its first chance to test the new call letters K8MHO during the annual “Michigan QSO Party” on Saturday, April 17, 2004. The purpose of this contest is for stations outside of Michigan to work as many Michigan stations and counties as possible, while the Michiganders work as many states/provinces/Michigan counties as possible. The event runs for 12 hours, from noon until midnight. By the way, “QSO” means “two-way contact” in ham radio parlance.

Operators were MHAS members Dave Benham, K8TRF, and Mike Van Buren, WD8S; also operating were Jim Bunting, K8JV, and John Teagardin, AA8UU. Tom Hagen, NE9Y, was sick with the flu and was unable to join us. Two stations were set up. We used the club station’s Ten Tec Omni-A, and Mike brought his Yaesu FT-1000D and temporarily set up in the machine shop (computer room). For antennas we set up two temporary loops – one for the 40 meter band and one for the 20 meter band – plus we had the club’s half-sloper running from Tower 3 to the south of the property.

K8MHO made 553 contacts in 46 states, 6 Canadian provinces, 6 foreign countries (Germany, England, Italy, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Netherlands) and 38 of Michigan’s 83 counties. The 553 contacts were pretty evenly split between Morse Code operation and single-sideband (voice). Our score was 117,117 points, which almost doubled last year’s record score of 64,660 points for a multi-operator station in Oakland County. We won’t know our final ranking until about August. All the scoring compilation is done by volunteers at the sponsoring Mad River Radio Club so we have to be patient.

Saturday night was quite a conflict as the Red Wings had a playoff game on TV, and over in Tower 2 Bill Blevins was enjoying a beautiful night of viewing through the Meade 10” SCT. He set up a live video feed for us of Jupiter and its brightest moons.

The next event for K8MHO will be on June 19, 2004, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of McMath-Hulbert’s first movies ever taken of the surface of the sun.


Volunteering the Stars

By John Blinke

(Special thanks to the Mensa Bulletin, January 2003, and John Blinke for permission to use this article.)

Many Mensans volunteer their time for good causes. Southeastern Michigan Mensa member Tom Hagen has a hobby that is more than a little different, though. He's helping to restore a historic solar observatory located in Lake Angelus, Mich. The McMath-Hulbert Observatory was built in the 1930s by Francis and Robert McMath, a millionaire science father-and-son team who hoped to use the facility as an educational center. The team partnered with Judge Henry Hulbert of Detroit, who was significantly involved in raising funds for the observatory.

The three domed towers at the site represent the evolution of the facility from a general astronomy observatory to the premier solar facility in the world. Tower one, the smallest of the three, contains a six-inch refracting telescope. Tower two has the spectroheliograph Tom is working on. It was the first instrument to make motion pictures of solar prominences, and it produced the longest continuous record of solar activity anywhere. However, like all technology, it finally became obsolete, and McMath set up a new solar telescope at Kitt Peak, Ariz. The Lake Angelus site was deeded to the University of Michigan in 1932 and then sold to private individuals. By the time the volunteers of the McMath-Hulbert Astronomical Society formed to rescue it, the site had become largely nonfunctional. Now, the place has a certain charm about it, almost a kind of Young Frankenstein gothic.

Tom Hagen is the kind of guy who likes to fix things. When he was introduced to the McMath-Hulbert Observatory, he decided pretty quickly that he wanted to help save it from rusting away.

As an electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and extra-class ham operator, it was natural for him to tackle the job of upgrading the solar telescope with 21st-century technology. Instead of making the spectroheliograph shoot photographic film as it did in the 1930s, he set about adapting a scanner chip, donated by Sony, to create digital images of the sun. Preliminary pictures were captured in August of 2002.

The sun does more than generate light, so Tom also built a small magnetometer - a thing as big as a Palm Pilot that can measure changes in the Earth's magnetic field during solar storms.

When he isn't building gadgets to spy on our local star, Tom frequently volunteers to host observing nights for the Oakland Astronomy Club. And, when visitors want to see the McMath-Hulbert site, he walks people through the towers and explains about the observatory. Tom receives no compensation for his efforts at the observatory, and he even spends some of his own money to help out when he can. He's a dedicated astronomer who says the observatory is just too good to waste.

When the telescope once again functions reliably, the plan is to put the instrument online so anyone can view the sun in real time. Tom is working with his 17-year-old neighbor, Steven Street, to refine the Web automation, but that part of the project won't be complete until a donor is found to provide continuous Web connection.

Director Jim Ross, who perpetually fights to keep the facility open and available to volunteers and the public, oversees the McMath-Hulbert Observatory. A history of the observatory can be found at