Einstein's Long Lost Telescope In Comeback

(AP) Students and visitors at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem will be able to look at the stars through Albert Einstein's long lost telescope starting Thursday, university officials said, after it was retrieved from a storage shed and renovated.

The legendary physicist who theorized the famous relations among energy, speed and mass received the telescope in 1954, the year before he died. It was a gift from a friend named Zvi Gizeri, who probably made it himself, university officials said.

It's not known how much Einstein used it, but a demonstration for the Associated Press showed it still works well enough to show five moons of Jupiter and the rings on the huge planet.

After three years and about $10,000 in renovations, the telescope is set to be on display for the public in conjunction with Researchers Day, when schools across Europe and Israel will open their laboratory doors to the public.

Einstein, who was a co-founder of the Hebrew University, willed his records to the school. There were rumors through the years that he also left a telescope, but it took modern sleuthing and some luck to find it.

The old reflecting telescope is cumbersome by modern standards. The long black tube about eight inches (20 centimeters) in diameter and two yards (meters) long and stands on a base experts said may have been taken from the German army.

It was this unique base, recognizable in a picture of Einstein with the telescope, and a signature from Gizeri on one of its mirrors, that confirmed its authenticity in 2004, when a biologist named Eshel Ophir connected the dots.

The forgotten telescope was first discovered in a storage shed in the late 1990s by a computer specialist at the school. But he did not recognize it as Einstein's, and it was left in the shed.

Ophir made the connection by accident, initially mistaking another forgotten telescope for the famous physicist's. After searching through the archives and photos, Ophir realized the real Einstein telescope was actually the one his colleague had found unceremoniously years earlier.

Ophir immediately took the telescope to the University's Meyerhoff Youth Center, where he was serving as director, "to protect it, to clean it," he said.

With the exception of a new assisting telescope, the rest of the device, from lenses to optics, is original.

It is unlikely, though, that a theoretician like Einstein, who won a Nobel Prize in 1921 for his theory of relativity, would have had much use for a telescope in his work.

"I don't think anybody investigated into Einstein's stargazing habits," said Dvora Lang, the current director of the Meyerhoff Youth Center, where the telescope is still displayed. "But it was for his pleasure, not for his work."

The newly unveiled telescope will not be housed with the rest of his documents at the Jewish National and University Library but will remain in the Meyerhoff center for use by 10 to 18-year-old students.

"This is setting them on fire," Lang said. She added that she hoped by looking into the telescope of one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century, a new generation of Israeli children would be inspired to learn more about science.

The telescope will also be available for public use once or twice a year, Ophir said.

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