Truck Driver Builds World's Largest Amateur Telescope

Nov 1, 2013

A truck driver from West Jordan built the largest amateur telescope on record.

Mike Clements builds the world's largest amateur telescope.

On the surface, Mike Clements is your typical professional truck driver for Central Refrigeration. But if you look closer, you will discover that Clements has a passion for building telescopes.

Clements said he became interested in telescopes when he was a kid. He would take apart telescopes and play with the pieces. Clements said this sparked an obsession for him.

He began by building small telescopes and worked his way up to building the largest amateur telescope on record.  Overall, it stands 35 feet tall.

“It's about the size of a school bus, about the weight of a small SUV,” Clements said. “And picture trying to move it a few ten thousandths of an inch at a time accurately to see the stars. That's what you do with this thing, it's awesome.”

Clements said he was not willing to spend too much money on the project. The giant 70-inch mirror was once a piece of a spy satellite and it came from an auction. The rest of the parts to the telescope came from places like Home Depot.

“I've got to tell ya, I didn't even know this thing was going to work. People told me that the satellite you don't look through it. I mean it's designed for a camera film spy plane,” said Clements.

The mirror to the telescope weighs approximately 900 pounds.

“At some point, people were telling me you can't look through these things,” said Clements. “There's a point at which visually, it isn't going to do you any good. And I said, 'Show me that limit. Show me that limit.’ And so nobody could show me that limit, and so I kept building bigger and now, lookin' through this thing is incredible.”

Clements said that he wants to take the telescope on the road.

“It’s going to be on the road when I save enough money for a trailer,” said Clements. “Oh, I’m a professional truck driver for Central Refrigerated and that’s a lot of trips back and forth from Idaho.”

Clements said that even though it took 18 months to build, he had been dreaming of the project for years.

Morgan Pratt is a sophomore at Utah State University seeking a degree in Journalism and Communications.