STANSBURY PARK, Tooele County — A telescope believed to be the world’s largest ever constructed by an amateur has found a new home at the Stansbury Park Observatory Complex in Tooele County.
The 35-foot, 3,000-pound Clements telescope is expected to be in place for the complex’s star parties in June, observatory director Rodger Fry said.
“We will have people come in from all over to have the opportunity to look through this telescope,” Fry said. “If Clark Griswold will travel halfway across the nation to see the largest ball of twine, how far will he go to look through the world’s largest telescope? A long way.”
A building designed to house the giant telescope remained under construction this week. Fry said the building was funded thanks to roughly $70,000 from private donors and a $25,000 matching grant from Tooele County.
“A big telescope takes a big house, and we’ve been fortunate to get the funding needed to put this together and make it a reality,” he said.
Completed in September 2013, the Clements telescope is the brainchild of Mike Clements, a trucker by day who has held a decadeslong passion for astronomy.
“As a kid, I was always fascinated with the stars, and I got into building my own telescopes,” he said. “Then I would build bigger and bigger telescopes until I reached the ridiculous limit of what you see here.”
Clements said he conceptualized the telescope in his mind and didn’t have a formal blueprint for it.
It features a 70-inch spy satellite mirror he acquired at an auction.
“It was a Cold War-era project,” Clements explained. “The mirror became slightly damaged in the fabrication process — which made it unsuitable for the military, which needs everything perfect. But (it was) perfectly suitable for an amateur astronomer such as myself.”
Clements said when he first looked through the telescope, he was stunned by what he saw.
“It’s completely overwhelming,” he said.
The result, Fry said, was a telescope that gives the naked eye a view of the cosmos it has never seen before.
“It has six orders of magnitude more light-gathering capability than the existing large telescope we have,” he said. “The spiral arms (of a galaxy), rather than being very subtle, they pop.”
Clements and Fry say they believe it might be possible to set a new record for naked-eye observation through the telescope by spotting something beyond 10 billion light years away.
“Bar none, this is the big one,” Fry said.
Clements said he hopes his telescope served to inspire others to pursue their own dreams.
“It need not be telescopes," he said, "but whatever your interest is, if you want something badly enough, you can pursue it."