Dedicated to Thomas Cave Telescopes


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Thomas Cave's Observatory
contributed by Larry Adkins
Photos by Larry Adkins

Thomas Cave, distinguished planetary observer and founder of Cave Optical Company, built an observatory in his backyard in 1940. The observatory is still in use, and although it is now surrounded by newer construction, it still has a clear view of the ecliptic. The more than 16,000 Astrola telescopes produced between 1950 and 1980 still have loyal fans.

Today the Cave Observatory only has a view to the southeast.

Cave Observatory's 12.5 inch (32 cm) Newtonian

These photographs were taken on May 16, 2003. I had talked with Tom the previous week and was hoping to continue our conversation on this visit. Unfortunately, on the 16th he was back in the hospital and died two weeks later (see below).

Thomas Cave passed away on June 4, 2003. I was fortunate enough to have talked to him only three weeks before his death at a meeting of the Orange County Astronomers. To the end he still had vivid memories of his career in astronomy and optics and could recall all of the oppositions of Mars he had witnessed and recorded. Sadly, he will miss the upcoming "great opposition" this August, an event he was hoping to see.

Interior view of Cave's "Mars Hill" (Lowell Observatory) type dome

What now may be a Cooke mount from the 40's

Mount detail No. 1

Editors note: While reviewing this article, Larry and I discovered that what he thought was a schaefer mount in the Cave observatory, it now turns out it may be a Cooke mount from the 40's. The following discussion occurred:

One thing I was not able to find out is whether the mount Tom had at his observatory was built by Bill Schaefer. When I talked to Tom he said that they used several Schaefer mounts over the years and that Bill had built one that he (Tom) used in his observatory. When I asked him where that mount was today he said "I'm still using it.". Now the only telescope he had in use when I went over to his house two weeks later was the one you see in the photographs. Part of it looks like a Schaefer mount, but some definitely does not. I think your information about the Cooke mounting clears the mystery up. The polar axis adjustments and the extension of this axis definitely look more like something that could have been purchased in the 40s, not something made by Bill. Tom was obviously very ill when I spoke to him, and, although mentally acute, could well have misunderstood my question. I always felt bad about not being able to talk to him again.