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 The Leviathan of Parsonstown

In the field of astronomy, the Victorian era’s most significant contribution was the Leviathan of Parsonstown. At the time, it was the largest telescope ever built in the world. William Parsons (3rd Earl of Rosse) built this telescope on the Birr Castle at Parsonstown in Ireland. The construction took over three years and consisted of a 72 inch mirror and a 17 meter tube. The telescope was suspended between two 15 meter high walls. Long after Lord Rosse built the instrument, many astronomers were still able to benefit from the telescope. However, upon the death of Laurence (4th Earl of Rosse and son of William), the telescope fell into disuse and disrepair.

Recently, the construction of the Leviathan in Second Life was commissioned by Troy McLuhan. He is one of the most prominent resident and recognized scientist in Second Life. He has studied in various science-related subjects including space exploration. Because he enjoys creating science-related environments and events in-world, it is natural for Troy to visualize the creation of the Leviathan of Parsonstown in the Space Island simulator. This replica in Second Life is faithful to the details of the original Leviathan telescope. Hence, visitors will be able to experience astronomy the way it is before the 20th century. A development team at Avatrian, six days and 2300 prims were dedicated to realize Troy’s vision. The Leviathan of Parsonstown will debut in Space Island on Sunday, June 29, 2008.

What follows is a chronicle of the day-by-day construction of the Leviathan of Parsonstown in Second Life:


Day 1: Measurements, dimensioning, and creation of framework for overall structure. To begin work on the telescope, the Avatrian team used a system of ascertaining unknown values based on known and existing ones. For instance, we knew from data, that the two walls that flanked the telescope were 15 meters high, and that the telescope tube itself was 17 meters tall. We also knew the diameter of the telescope, and thus was able to deduce the space between the walls. Using this, and using long distance images of the existing reconstructed telescope today (long distance means tendency for lesser perspective lines, and making the target object more isometric-looking), we were able to sketch overall dimensions for the walls.


Day 2: Primming of walls, ladders, platforms and other base structures. The bulk of the Leviathan construction was devoted to the traditional primming of the primary structures. The eastern and western walls were first constructed. After the dimensions and placements of the walls were confirmed, the supporting structures were added one by one. All the ladders and platforms were made of prims in order to show as much detail as possible. It is important to note that, at the start of the project, Avatrian was given considerable leeway in the amount of prims that can be used for the construction of the Leviathan. This gave the development crew more freedom to be intricate with the construction. At this stage of the construction, preliminary textures were also tested out on some of the dominant surfaces.


Day 3: Construction of Telescope Unit. This one part of the build took considerably longer (as a single component) because of the detailing we exerted to make it look and “feel” like a true Newtonian reflector. A Newtonian Reflector is a telescope that utilizes mirrors instead of lenses as the primary means of collecting light from a distant celestial body. Thus, we had to construct the telescope in a manner that logically shows the relationship between the primary mirror (main collector of light), housed in a rectangular box at the bottom end of the telescope tube, the secondary mirror (a flat mirror suspended in the middle of the scope via support vanes, that bounces the light from the primary mirror into the eyepiece hole), and the eyepiece slot at the side of the telescope. Although it doesn’t truly function as a true telescope, we believe that our construction is a faithful replica of how a large Newtonian Telescope such as the Leviathan, would function. As for the aesthetics, we used images of the restored telescope and sketches/diagrams of the original telescope for reference.


Day 4: Addition of mechanical devices (winches, pulleys, cranks, etc…). Finally, the detail work (including finalization of the wall and platform textures) on various metal mechanical devices (winches, pulleys, cranks etc.) was done on this day. Care was also taken to create shadowing and highlighting to give a more realistic effect on the installed devices. The chains, counterweights and ropes were also added on this day. Though not interactive and basically static, the intent of these details was to provide a “diorama-like” ambience into the build by careful detail-work.


Day 5: Client feedback on prototype. The telescope was ready by this day, and we contacted the client and asked him to identify some design or build errors we might have made–he spotted some which we corrected immediately. We also made minor adjustments to the prototype in order to enhance certain features. This includes the addition of position balls for certain areas of the structure. For example, an avatar can actually climb beside the large telescope and have a look through the eyepiece.


Day 6: Packaging and delivery to client. Prior to delivering the final product to the client, Avatrian did a quality assurance check on all the components. This includes making sure that all the major components are properly linked, applying naming standards to every object, adding descriptions and verifying that correct full permissions are set. After this, Avatrian used the Rez-Faux utility for packaging the complete structure. Rez-Faux allows the easy transfer of the large structure via a single packaged container. In addition, the client will be able to rez and set the location of the structure easily. Once this was done, the completed Leviathan of Parsonstown structure was delivered to Troy McLuhan.


The Leviathan Telescope in Space Island, SL

Higher Resolution Images of the Project and Development Team

Troy’s blog about the Leviathan in SL

About Troy McLuhan

More information about Lord Rosse and the Leviathan

More about the Birr Castle

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4 Responses to “The Leviathan of Parsonstown”

  1. Christian Riconalla Says:

    One question that lingers in my mind: Is the telescope usable (e.g. there will be an image displayed on your screen of a far land/sky object if you use the telescope)?

    Just curious… :)

  2. Sheryl Says:

    As of the moment it cannot be used yet. But the owner, Mr. Troy McLuhan, is currently scripting it himself. And soon its telescopic uses will be made available for everybody. :)

  3. A Martian Named Frank & Lord Rosse’s Telescopes « Spindrift, in SciLands, Second Life Says:

    [...] at the official opening of the “Lord Rosse’s Leviathans” historical telescopes display that Troy McLuhan had commissioned from Avatrian and then added his riding tour to. Festive opening day crowd for Rosse [...]

  4. sandrar Says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

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