Astronomical Regulator: Dent 1906


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Ordered from E. Dent & Co. by the Astronomer Royal, George Airy, in 1869 as the new Sidereal Standard and delivered in May 1871, Dent 1906 was brought into use on 21 August 1871. It incorporated several features which were of Airy’s own design.


The following description is taken from the introduction to the 1871 volume of Greenwich Observations.



The following description is taken from the introduction to the 1909 volume of Greenwich Observations.

‘The Sidereal Standard Clock, constructed by Messrs. E. Dent and Co., is fixed to the north wall of the Magnetic Basement, as in this apartment the temperature is kept nearly uniform. The escapement will be found described in Vol. III. of the Transactions of the Cambridge Philosophical Society: it is a detached escapement, very closely analogous to the ordinary chronometer-escapement, the pendulum receiving impulse only at each alternate vibration; consequently, the escape wheel and seconds hand move only at alternate seconds (the even seconds). The pendulum is compensated in the following way. A central steel rod is encircled by a zinc tube, which rests on the rating nut on the steel rod; the zinc tube is in its turn encircled by another steel tube, which rests at its upper end on the zinc tube, and carries at its lower end the cylindrical leaden pendulum bob attached at its centre. Slots are cut in the outer steel tube, and holes made in the intermediate zinc tube, with the object of exposing equally all parts of the compound pendulum rod to the action of temperature. For final adjustment of the rate there is placed on the crutch rod a sliding weight, which can be raised or lowered by a nut at the level of the crutch-axis without disturbing the pendulum. The rate of the clock is so steady that, when first mounted, the barometric inequality was indicated with the greatest regularity, the daily losing rate of the clock being increased by 0s.3 for an increase of 1 inch of barometer reading.

In the autumn of 1873 an apparatus for correction of this inequality was applied to the clock by Messrs. E. Dent and Co., and has been in action regularly since that time. This new compensating apparatus of the Sidereal Standard is founded on the magnetic principle, long previously in use for daily adjustment of the Mean Solar clock. Two bar magnets, each about six inches long, are fixed vertically to the bob of the clock pendulum, one in front, the other at the back, their lower ends being nearly level with the bottom of the pendulum bob. The lower pole of the front magnet is a north pole and the lower pole of the back magnet a south pole. Below these a horseshoe magnet, having its poles precisely under those of the pendulum magnets, is carried transversely at the end of a lever, the opposite arm of which is attached by a connecting rod to a float in the lower leg of a syphon barometer, placed in one corner of the clock case. The area of the cistern in which the float rests is four times as great as that of the upper tube. For change of one inch of barometer reading the horseshoe magnet is thus shifted two-tenths of an inch; and as the average distance between its poles and those of the pendulum magnets is about 3¾ inches, the change of rate produced by increase or decrease of the magnetic action is sensibly uniform. As the clock gained with low barometer reading, it was necessary to place the horseshoe magnet so that there should be attraction between its poles and the adjacent poles of the pendulum magnets. The action of this apparatus is found to be quite successful.

Galvanic contact for registration of the clock-beats is made by a wheel of 30 teeth on the escape-wheel arbor, a tooth of which at every beat of the clock presses together two light springs. Another pair of springs is also pressed together at the beginning of each minute by an arm on the same arbor, and a supplementary signal is thus sent through a galvanometer as a check on the numeration of seconds. This arrangement was substituted in the latter part of 1881 for that formerly employed (in which a pin on the pendulum was used to press together the contact springs) in order to avoid any effect on the pendulum, contact being made in the part of the beat when the pendulum is quite detached from the clock-train, after the impulse has been given, It had been intended to obtain seconds' signals on the chronograph by the use of an auxiliary clock regulated on Jones's principle, but after various experiments the method was not found satisfactory on account of the shortness of the contact. The currents obtained from the Sidereal Standard at every alternate second are used to drive a relay, from which three independent circuits are derived. One of these is appropriated to the seconds-magnet of the chronograph ; in another the current regulates a half-seconds chronometer fixed to the eye-end of the telescope of the South-east equatorial ; that of the remaining circuit regulates the pendulum of a half-seconds clock placed on the foundation frame upon the south pier of the South-east equatorial, drives a tapper in the South-east equatorial room for making audible the beats of the clock, and drives also a galvanic chronometer placed, in the Computing Room, on the desk of the Superintendent of the Time Department. No practical difficulty is found in subdividing the interval of two seconds between the clock-beats on the chronograph. The numeration of seconds on the chronograph is readily obtained from the comparisons with the clock Hardy.’