Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Photography at the Liverpool Observatory


Photography at the Liverpool Observatory

Bolton Chronicle Saturday 8th January 1842


The Corporation Liverpool having granted the site of the late Observatory, St. James’s Walk, a neat and elegant Building has been erected thereon, in which the PHOTOGRAPHIC APPARATUS, the discovery of which ranked among the greatest scientific achievements of the present age. will be in daily operation.

St James's Walk early 19th century entrance marked by red line


Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Meteor seen over Lancaster in 1902


Meteor seen over Lancaster in 1902

P. Mulligan reported on January 24th 1902 a meteor which passed a little to the east of alpha Leo (Regulus) travelling towards the south west. It crossed the Moon in its flight. The meteor lasted for 5 seconds and the streak lasted for 10 minutes.

Monday, 25 January 2021

Leeds Astronomical Society 1892



Leeds Mercury Saturday 10th December 1892

A meeting of the members of the Leeds Astronomical Society was held on Monday in the library of the philosophical Hall ark-row, for the purpose for the purpose of submitting a scheme for the future conduct of the society, and for the enrolment of members. Mr. Washington Teasdale, F.R.A.S., occupied the chair, and amongst those present were Mr. W. D. Barbour (treasurer). Mr. H. Stockwell (secretary), Mr. S Jefferson, Mr. H. J. Townshed, Mr. D. Booth, Mr. E R. Blakeley (Dewsbury), Mr. Marshall (Church Institute), Mr. Wm. Neil, and others.

At a preliminary meeting of the committee of the society was decided to invite Sir Robert Ball to become honorary President of the society, and that Mr. Washington should continue to be the acting President. —The Chairman said that they had recently held a meeting for the purpose of forming an Astronomical Society, or rather reorganising one which had formerly existed, for Mr Barbour had, fortunately, preserved the record, the Astronomical Society which was formed 1859. They were impelled to do so because had become aware that there were in Leeds a number of students of astronomy who were sending their communications to other societies which were in active existence.

Their society had only been a state of passive existence, and it was only through the Journals of these outside societies that they had become acquainted with each other as astronomical students. He then called on the secretary (Mr. Stockwell), who read a letter from the "Leeds Mercury Supplement." setting forth the objects of the promoter of the meeting. He then read the minutes of two previous meetings, these including the rules that hart been framed and agreed upon. The Chairman said that he felt certain that in a little the value of an astronomical society for Leeds would be thoroughly appreciated and that if once they got established as a working society many would join both in Leeds and the surrounding neighbourhood. They then must promote cordial co-operation with other philological societies, for the astronomer was now largely dependent upon the special knowledge of workers in other branches of science, such as the geologist. the chemist, the photographer, and so forth.—Mr. Barbour, who was treasurer of the original society, gave some account of its proceedings, mentioning that the fine telescope which was handed by the members over to the Yorkshire College. dared say they could have it back again if they asked for it- Mr David Booth, the next speaker, said he quite agreed that a distinct society for the of astronomy be formed for Leeds.

When they got well established they could consider the question joining the British Astronomical Association.—Mr. Townshend said he hoped thev should he able to regain possession of the telescope and obtain a suitable observatory.— Mr Blakeley said he wished to dispel a very prevalent idea, that in order to study astronomy one must necessarily possess a telescope. There was a great deal to study in it without making any use philosophical instruments. A very great deal could be seen with an ordinarily good opera-glass, such, for example, as the satellite’s of Jupiter. Then meteorology was a branch of astronomy. and their friend Mr. Booth, who was an eminent meteorologist, would tell them that no optical instruments were necessary in making meteorological observations.

He hoped to be able to obtain a lumber of members from the Dewsbury district. (Applause.)— Mr. Townshend mentioned that there was an astronomical society at Sheffield, and that its members had the use an observatory belonging to the Corporation of that town two days every week. In reply to Mr. Barbour, he said that members of the Leeds society could, if they so wished, have the use of that observatory.—The Chairman mid it might be interesting to know that the present Assistant Astronomer Royal, Mr. Turner, was a Leeds man. (Applause.) Mr. Turner was also the secretary of the official journal the Royal Astronomical Society. He (the Chairman) trusted they should obtain lady members. (Hear, hear.) —Mr. John Roberts, who was a member the old Leeds Astronomical Society, Mr. Brooks, and other gentlemen having spoken, the proceedings terminated. Several new members were enrolled.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Sir Robert Ball at Lancaster


Lancashire Evening Post Thursday 9th February 1899


The Palatine Hall. Lancaster, was crowded last evening, when, in connection with the Storey Institute Lecture Society, Sir Robert. Ball delivered bis lecture, “A Universe Motion.” The chair was occupied by Mr. H, L. Storey J.P. who referred to the advantages that local students possessed in the Greg Observatory.

The Lecturer observed that so faithfully were the movements of the heavenly bodies noted that if planet were late in turning up he was immediately reported to the Astronomer Royal, and an inquiry into his conduct followed. (Laughter ) Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury, Venus, Mars, always turned up at the right time but Uranus used to give the astronomers infinite trouble, laughing the calculations of the mathematicians. When he ought to have been in one place he turned up at another. But the pen of the mathematician was the profoundest instrument for revealing truth, and it was the mathematician who discovered his locale.

Saturday, 23 January 2021

More about the Greg Observatory


Lancaster Standard and County Advertiser Friday 5th January 1894


To the Editor of the Lancaster Standard

Sir. It seems to be high time that some explanation should be forthcoming to the supineness and of the Park Committee with respect to the Greg Observatory. It will be within your recollection that the committee some time since recommended the Council to hand over the Management of the astronomical portion of the Observatory to the Storey Institute —a course which would have been attended with the greatest advantages. But, at the very next council meeting the committee deliberately, and without any reasonable explication, objected to this being done. Mr. Councillor Bell might say with scathing emphasis, that a more extraordinary performance it has never been his misfortune to wintness Anything more grossly inconsistent, could hardly be imagined, than for a committee to deliberately recommend one thing, and directly afterwards stultify itself by objecting to it. It is a most unfortunate state of things. The Hon. director, whose services to the Observatory have never been either fully known or appreciated, has resigned—for reasons which are pretty well known and, except Dr. Turpin, there appears to be on one capable of succeeding him.The consequence is that the Observatory is now without a head; and this grand gift to the town, with such great capabilities for good remains practically a dead letter. The committee do, indeed, point with triumph to the fact that so many trippers have paid their pennies to see the place, and that so much money was received from them. But the Observatory was not built and equipped for trippers, but for the benefit of the town. It was intended to promote end cultivate the study of astronomy, the purest and most fascinating of all the sciences. What has been done by the committee, or what is being done, to further this end? The hon. director been alienated, and the offers of Dr Turpin have been refused. Who, then, is to give the directions and instructions for the proper conduct of the place? It with the intention of making the Observatory something more than a mere penny peepshow for trippers that the proposal to transfer the management front the committee to the Storey Institute was made. If this had been done, classes would have been formed under Dr. Turpin and Mr. Bone for the systematic study of astronomy: the observatory would have been thrown open to the public on certain specified nights, and the objects of the institution would have been carried out. But, up to the present, nothing whatever has been done this season, and the policy of masterly inactivity reigns supreme. There are no demonstrations; the plate is closed to the public during the winter evenings; the instruments are idle, and the Observatory is practically useless. Moreover, the town has been put to a considerable expense in the purchase of a valuable mean time clock a barometer, a wind gauge, a rain gauge, and a sunshine recorder. But of what use are these under the present management, rather, mismanagement The mean clock remains uncorrected, the readings of the instruments are not registered, simply because there is noose on one possessed of sufficient scientific knowledge to attend to them. The readings of these instruments ought to be published every week in the local newspapers. Of what benefit are they to the town unless this is done? The public a right to expect some benefit for the outlay which has been made: they they have a right to expect that the Observatory should be made proper use of; and I would respectfully urge the committee to bestir themselves, or to over the management of the Observatory to the Storey Institute, as the educational centre of the town.- -Yours, obediently, JUPITER.

Lancaster Standard and County Advertiser Friday 12th January 1894


To the Editor of the Lancaster Standard

Sirs,—Having taken an interest in the Greg Observatory, 1 was glad to see the letter from "Jupiter," in your last issue, drawing attention to the mismanagement of this valuable educational institution by the Park Committee. Judging from a remark by the Chairman of this committee, at the Council meeting referred to, I fear be does not understand the purpose for which the instruments were provided. The Managing Committee act as if the principal object of the institution is to attract pennies from, cheap-trippers. This being incompatible with correct astronomical work, the honorary director , resigned, and at present there is no one in charge capable of giving the necessary instruction. Last winter the honorary director gave a series of lessons on the use of the instruments and other astronomical matters, which were highly valued by a considerable number of students, who eagerly looked forward to a renewal of these studies this winter. So far, however, they have been disappointed. I would suggest that a memorial to the Town Council be prepared, asking that the astronomical part of the institution he attached to the Storey Institute, so as to be utilised in the interests of the ratepayers, , instead of being wasted at the whim Of its present custodians and their showman.-,—Yours truly, A RATEPAYER.

Lancaster Standard and County Advertiser Friday 19th January 1894


Sir —Being a lover of the science of Astronomy, it was with the greatest pleasure that I read the letter of your able correspondent "Jupiter," whose plain speaking comes most opportunely at the present juncture. This letter being immediately followed by one from "Ratepayer," leads to think that the public are getting tired of the way in which the Observatory in conducted. And, surely, it is high time we an alteration. If there be not a single member of our Corporate body who has a soul above repairing streets and cleaning sewerss, then it is their duty to place the management in the bands of some one who has and who would ptt the building to a right and legitimate use, and not degrade it in the manner in which it has been degraded of late.

We have an excellent Observatory, equipped with superb instruments; also fine " Astronomical," and "Mean Time" clocks; and in addition to these the very best Meteorological instruments. But, by the splendid system of mismanagement, which our anti-scientific Corporation are following, they are rendered practically useless. Just now, in the depth of the winter season, when almost every night the heavens are crowded with objects of the highest interest, the Observatory should have been in full work. Eager students ought to be crowding round the great " Equatorial," or standing breathless, watching the operator at the " Transit" instrument, as he recorded the exact time, to the fraction of a second, when some star crossed the meridian. But alas!, night after night darkness and silence reign in the building. Or, if by chance, a party should go up there is no one amongst them who can properly manipulate the instruments; and, if there were, the " Astronomical " clock has remained so long uncorrected, that it would be getting very difficult to set the " Equatorial" by the readings of the " Right Ascension" and " Declination " circles. I think this state of things is positively a disgrace to our town, and will lead outsiders to the belief that science is but little loved amongst us. Let our sapient Corporation get rid of the institution which seems to be of too high a nature for them. If they cannot, or will not " try " to manage it themselves., let them hand it over to somebody who can, and will, and not remain like the proverbial " dog in the manger," until everybody's patience becomes exhausted. and we grow disgusted with the exhibition of so little care for the grandest of all the sciences.—l am, yours. &c A LOVER OF ASTRONOMY.

Lancaster, Jan. 18th, 1894.  

Thursday, 21 January 2021

The Greg Observatory

 The Greg Observatory

Lancashire Evening Post Thursday 30th January 1890

The Greg Observatory —The Properties’ Committee, after receiving a report on the subject from a subcommittee, had come to the conclusion that the observatory presented the Corporation by Mr. A. Greg should be erected on site in the Williamson Park, and requested the Park Committee to consider the question and report upon it.

Lancashire Evening Post Wednesday 27th July 1892


The Greg Observatory, situated in the Williamson Park. Lancaster, was formally opened this afternoon Dr. Copeland, F.R.S.E., F.R.A.S., Astronomer Royal Scotland, after the learned gentleman had delivered address at. the Royal Grammar School. The observatory is named after the donor of the instruments, Mr. Albert Greg J.P .Caton. The instruments were those used by Mr. Greg's father in his private observatory at Escow Bank Caton and were presented to the Corporation of Lancaster about two years ago.

Lancashire Evening Post Wednesday 28th September 1892

On the consideration of the Observatory Committee, Mr Preston said already between 5,000 and 6,000 people had visited the observatory, but many complained of the terrestrial telescope.—lt was stated that this was really because the glass was too good, and less expensive one had been obtained.  

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Astronomical Lectures at Rossall School by Sir Robert Ball

 Astronomical Lectures at Rossall School by Sir Robert Ball

Blackpool Gazette & Herald Friday 7th November 1890

On Friday 31st October and Saturday 1st November evenings last Sir Robert Ball, the Astronomer Royal of Ireland, delivered two lectures at Rossall School on "Astronomy." There were large attendances, and the instructive and highly interesting discourses were greatly enhanced by numerous illustrations from a magic lantern, under the able management of Mr. B. Hainsworth. The subject of the first lecture on Friday evening was the San. At the outset Sir R. Ball alluded to the heat, size, and distance of the Sun, and its size in comparison with the other members of the Solar System, and proceeded to explain that it probably was not formed of any solid matter, but of flaming gas. The spots on the Sun were treated with, and described as holes in it’s surface, through which it was possible to see into the interior, and by means of which astronomers were able to ascertain the rotundity of the Sun. Pictures were shown illustrating total eclipses, and the stars which were to be seen close to the centre of our system, which at other times were invisible.

The second lecture dealt principally with the stars, and the lecturer explained how photography had to be adopted in discovering stars which were entirely invisible to the eyesight, aided or otherwise by the telescope. Photographs of the observatories in California and Dublin were shown, and in speaking of the vast distance of the fixed stars, which the Astronomer said were probably not single globes, but whole constellations, it was explained that the nearest one, Alpha Centauri, was twenty millions of millions of miles away from the Earth. In order to convey a clearer meaning of this vast distance to the audience, Sir R. Ball gave the following lucid illustration :—if electric telegraph wires were laid round the equator, a current would go round seven times in one second. If similar wires were laid to the Moon it would take about eight minutes, but if they were laid to the Alpha Centauri, three hundred years would elapse ere the message would reach that orb. The lectures of the eminent scientist were listened to with great attention, and were greeted with rounds of applause by the boys of the school.

Sir Robert Ball

The Headmaster, the Rev. C. C. Tancock, spoke a few words at the close and said that during the day news had been received that the Queen had granted the School a Royal charter. It would probably not make much matter to them individually, but it raised the school to a position that it had not held before. In honour of the grant. therefore, he would ask Mr Sweeting to play "God Save the Queen," and on the first fine afternoon he would give a half-holiday.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Possible move of Madras Observatory

Possible move of Madras Observatory 

Colonies and India Saturday 21st November 1891

The question of removing the Madras Observatory to a station in the Pulneys or Nilgiris is now occupying the attention of the Governments of India and Madras. The transfer is recommended in order to obtain an atmosphere with the minimum of cloud. If this project is carried out, solar observations will be carried on there instead of at Dehra, in the North-West Provinces.

Madras Observatory c1838

The Meteorological Department has arranged for a trial of observations in 1892, at Kodai Kanal, on the Pulneys, and Kotaigiri, on the Nilgiris. Mr. Michie will continue at present to officiate as Government Astronomer. The Astronomer Royal will be consulted next year on any future programme that may be suggested.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Possible observatories in the Pacific in the 1890s

Possible observatories in the Pacific in the 1890s

Colonies and India Saturday 17th January 1891 

Mr. Clement Wragge, the Government Astronomer of Queensland, sailed from Brisbane the other day for the New Hebrides, where he is to superintend the erection of some observatories on the islands. It is plucky of the Queensland Government to take this matter up, and no doubt much useful astronomical information can be garnered by the aid of observatories in the Mid-Pacific. 

The Astronomy Show


The Astronomy Show

Join me, Martin Lunn tonight and every Monday evening from 7.00 pm-9.00 pm on the Astronomy Show, I will take my weekly look at the night sky and look at all the latest news in astronomy. There will be the astronomical anniversaries this week plus the A-Z of Constellations and the Messier Marathon.

The Astronomy Show every Monday evening only on Drystone Radio 102 and 103.5 FM the show can be heard live on line at and the show can be heard later on the Drystone Radio Podcast.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Lecture on Comets at Birkenhead, January 20th 1896


Birkenhead News Saturday 25th January 1896

On Monday evening, in the lecture hall beneath the Orange Road Presbyterian Church, a lecture was delivered by Mr. W. E. Plummer, of Bidston Observatory" on "Comets and Meteors."

The lecturer managed to convey a vast amount of information to his audience, his statements being explained in the simplest language and further illustrated by lime-light views. After dealing with the theories concerning the formation of comets and their tails, he remarked that a study of these phenomena of the heavens was very valuable in the direction of the long sought problem as to the nature of the elements occupying space. He gave the history, briefly, of various comets and the extent of the parabola they described, and invited his bearers to keep their eyes open for one comet which appears within the range of vision once every 75 years and which can be next seen in 1911.

The lecture was deeply interesting, and a cordial vote of thanks was accorded to Mr. Plummer at its conclusion.

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Occultation of Aldebaran by the Moon seen from Manchester


Occultation of Aldebaran by the Moon seen from Manchester

On January 16th 1867, Mr Baxendell at Mr Worthington's observatory observed the occultation of Aldebaran by the Moon. The star disappeared at 02 h 59m and 6 sec and reappeared at 4hr 10 min and 7 sec. The disappearance and reappearance were both instantaneous, and no unusual phenomenon was observed.

The telescope used was the equatorial mounted achromatic of 70 inch focal length and 5 inch aperture with a power of 68.

Friday, 15 January 2021

The Premeditated Suicide at Observatory House


The Premeditated Suicide at Observatory House

An interesting story from the chronicle of the Herschell family

Hull Daily Mail, Wednesday 14th September 1892

George Digby Cole, valet to a gentleman named Herschell, who resides at Observatory House, in the Windsor Road Slough, having had disagreement with his master, went on Monday afternoon to a chemist, and, pretending that required the drug for the purpose of poisoning a dog, obtained some prussic acid. He then proceeded to the house of his former employer, and, after using some improper language, took out the bottle and swallowed its poisonous contents. The man walked the room for few moments screaming and shouting in his death agonies till he fell exhausted to the floor.

Observatory House c1905

A surgeon attended as speedily as possible, and administered an emetic but he expired. It is said that Cole, who was considered rather an eccentric person, was walking shortly before he committed suicide with an undertaker, whom he asked to measure him for a coffin when he was dead.

I don’t know which member of the Herschell family was living at Observatory House at this time.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

A Temporary Observatory near Sydney

A Tempoaray Observatory near Sydney

Colonies and India Wednesday 21st  May 1890

A temporary observatory is about to be established near Sydney for the purpose of carrying on astronomic photographic work in connection with a chart of the heavens about to be prepared by an Astro-Photo Committee charged by the Conference which met in Paris in 1887. The arrangement of the details has been allotted in zones to 19 observatories in the order of their latitude. Under this arrangement Sydney takes from 34° S. to 42° S., and Melbourne from 70' S. to the South Pole.

Sydney Observatory

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Captain Scott, The South Pole and a Cooke


Captain Scott, the South Pole and a Cooke

Most people know of the story of Captain Scott and his expedition trying to become the first people to reach the south pole on Antarctica during the summer of 1911/1912. Unfortunately when he arrived he discovered that he had been beaten by the Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen. Amundsen reached the south pole on the 14th December 1911, while Scott reached the south pole on January 17th 1912. Sadly on the return journey Scott and his team perished in the very cold conditions.

However what is perhaps less well know is that Captain Scott and his team took a light weight theodolite specially made by Thomas Cooke of York with him the mark the position of the south pole. It was one of only 6 of these special theodolites made by Cooke’s for the expedition.

When the rescue team found the bodies of Scott and his team in their tent they also found the Cooke theodolite that was used by Scott to mark the south pole.

This instrument was on display at the physics department at the University of York, however I cannot say if it is still there today.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Great Fire near Dunsink Observatory



Bradford Daily Telegraph Monday 7th October 1895

A fire occurred on Saturday October 5th at Rathbone’s candle factory near Dunsink Observatory, county Dublin, and properly estimated £80,000 was destroyed. The heat was so intense that it was found impossible to reach a water tank in the yard attached to the premises, and the only supply available was procured from an old quarry nearby. Tons of finished candles were and the buildings completely destroyed.

Monday, 11 January 2021

The Grimsby Astronomical Observatory?

The Grimsby Astronomical Observatory? 

I came across this very short article and I don't know if it was actually built or if it was an astronomical observatory of just a tower. Maybe someone who has knowledge of the Grimsby area will have heard of this.

Bradford Daily Telegraph Wednesday 24th May 1899

The Mayor of Grimsby has promised to erect an observatory in the public park. The observatory is have an approach of 80 steps to correspond with Her Majesty’s years of life.

The Astronomy Show


The Astronomy Show

Join me, Martin Lunn tonight and every Monday evening from 7.00 pm-9.00 pm on the Astronomy Show, I will take my weekly look at the night sky and look at all the latest news in astronomy. There will be the astronomical anniversaries this week plus the A-Z of Constellations and the Messier Marathon.

The Astronomy Show every Monday evening only on Drystone Radio 102 and 103.5 FM the show can be heard live on line at and the show can be heard later on the Drystone Radio Podcast.

Saturday, 9 January 2021

A Cooke and Spectra in Surrey


A Cooke and Spectra in Surrey

Sir Henry Thompson at his observatory at Hurst Side, West Molesey, Surrey which houses a 12 inch Thomas Cook and Sons of York telescope has been observing the spectra of nebula. The observatory was established here in early 1888.

Later in 1888 using the 12 inch Cooke he observed the nebula in Orion, between September and December, the Andromeda nebula in October and again in December. He had earlier in the year observed the nebula in Lyra.

Friday, 8 January 2021

A Cooke in New Jersey


A Cooke in New Jersey

On January 9th 1889 Mr Read was elected President of the Astronomical Society of Cambden, New Jersey, USA. He had an observatory with a 5.5 inch Thomas Cooke of York telescope with a clockwork drive also supplied by Cooke.

This society would in 1927 become the Rittenhouse Astronomical Society named after David Rittenhouse (1732-1796) the first American astronomer.

David Rittnehouse

Thursday, 7 January 2021

A Remarkable Meteor seen from Liverpool


A Remarkable Meteor seen from Liverpool

On January 9th 1871 at 10 h and 10 mins, R C Johnson (a former President of Liverpool Astronomical Society) of Warrenside, Blundellsands, Liverpool while observing Orion with his telescope was startled by the glare of a meteor in the observatory. He quickly moved to the slit and saw a splendid cluster of meteors pass rapidly across the constellation moving from east to west in a line nearly parallel to the equator, about half way between the belt and shoulders.

Johnson said that the meteor was visible for 5 seconds of which I only saw it for the last 2 seconds; it left a broad short train, which faded in about 3 more seconds.

The meteor consisted of detached portions, making up a globular cluster of about the size of the moon. In that space I estimated roughly that there were 8 to 12 separate meteorites.

The sky was clear, and the moon was just 3 days past full, very bright and I estimate the light of the meteor to have been about 1.5 times that of the moon; it’s colour was nearly that of the mercurial electric blue.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Mars seen with a 15.5 inch Cooke


Mars seen with a 15.5 inch Cooke

Mr V Cerulli reports his observations made at Terano, Italy using the excellent 15.5 inch Thomas Cooke telescope that had previously been owned by Mr Wiggesworth of Scarborough. There were 11 drawings that were made between 1896 and 1897.

He noted that the lines of Mars did not seem to either increase or decrease in visibility. He says that in July 1896 some of the canals were easily visible on a disc of 7”, while in December 1896 the diameter being 17” they ought to have become more magnificent, but on the contrary they preserved the same appearance as in July.

He concluded that the lines are formed by the eye. Mr Cerulli was held in high esteem to the effect that whether his theory that the canals are formed by the eye and are not real and that he suggests that all Martian maps are regarded as temporary guides until they can be modified by further investigations.

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Sun Pillars seen at the Harrogate Observatory


Sun Pillars seen at the Harrogate Observatory

At the Harrogate Corporation Observatory on January 7th 1902 Sun Pillars were seen. Earlier displays were seen on December 3rd 1901. On both occasions the following was noted:-

a) The presence of Cirrus Cloud.

b) These clouds must be in a banded or striated form.

c) They must lie at right angles to the path of the Sun.

d) These clouds must of course be present in the immediate neighbourhood of the setting Sun.

The altitude of this station is 480 feet Latitude 54 degrees North, 1 degree 36 minutes West.

G.Paul Corporation Observatory, Harrogate

Monday, 4 January 2021

Venus observed by giant Cooke telescope in Scarborough


Venus observed by giant Cooke telescope in Scarborough

On January 2nd and 3rd 1886 the unlit side of the planet Venus was observed from Scarborough. The observations were undertaken by James Wigglesworth who had built an observatory in the town between 1884-1885 and it housed a 15.5 inch Thomas Cooke telescope.

Wigglesworth described his observations as saying that he could clearly see the dark side of Venus through his telescope. It appeared to be grey in colour except near the terminator where the secondary spectrum causes it to appear blue and compared to the bright part of Venus it looks much smaller.

James Wigglesworth a financial adviser who brought the company of Thomas Cooke & Sons in 1879 to save it from bankruptcy. His great interest was in astronomy so he had a 15.5 inch telescope and a 30 feet observatory which would house it to be constructed in Scarborough.

Sadly for Scarborough it’s claim to fame to have a major observatory lasted only for a short period of time because James Wigglesworth died in 1888.

The telescope and observatory were dismantled in 1890 and were sold to the Italian astronomer Vincenzo Cerulli. The observatory today is now as the Terano Observatory and I assume that the 15.5 inch Cooke is still there.

Sunday, 3 January 2021

An Aurora seen from Halifax


An Aurora seen from Halifax

On January 3rd 1870 Joseph Gledhill while using the 9.3 inch Cooke telescope of Mr Crossley saw a spectacular aurora or northern lights. He stopped using the telescope to observe the aurora.

After a dull sunless, calm day the sky cleared at 5.00 pm. The display began at about 7.10 pm a broad band of light was seen across the front of the opening of the observatory dome. It was a dense luminous white beam with no colours being observed. It was about 5 degrees wide. At 7.30 pm the clouds covered the sky but at 8.10 pm the sky cleared and it was seen as a much broader although less luminous band being about 15 degrees wide. It could be seen lying from Beta Auriga through the belt of Orion to the Pleiades. By 8.30 pm no trace of the aurora could be seen.

Saturday, 2 January 2021

The 7th Moon of Jupiter discovered with the Crossley Reflector


The 7th Moon of Jupiter discovered with the Crossley Reflector

On January 2nd 1905 C D Perrine using the 36 inch Crossley Reflector discovered the 7th moon of Jupiter which is now called Elara. The name Elara comes from one of the lovers of Zeus. The moon has a diameter of 79 km and is the 8th largest moon of Jupiter.

The 36 inch reflector had been owned by Edward Crossley of Halifax, Yorkshire who owned Crossley Carpets the largest carpet manufacturer in the world in the 19th century. He purchased it in the 1880s from A. A. Common of Ealing, London. Although it was at the time the largest reflector in England due to the poor observing conditions in the skies over Halifax which was due to the pollution from the many factories in Halifax it was impossible to use the telescope to its best.

In the mid 1890s he donated the telescope to the new Lick Observatory in California. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the Crossley reflector at Lick proved to be a real trail blazing telescope leading in astronomical research in many different areas. It was also the largest reflector in America until the building of the 100 inch telescope at Mount Hamilton.