Thursday, 9 April 2020

Astronomy in Yorkshire # 7 April 9th 1867 The Crossley 9.3 inch Cooke Telescope

7 April 9th 1867 The Crossley 9.3 inch Cooke telescope

Edward Crossley was a wealthy industrialist who owned the Crossley Carpet Mill in Halifax, this was the largest one in the world at that time with a turnover of around £1 million, but Crossley was also interested in astronomy and in 1865 he built an observatory for a telescope. He naturally went to the best telescope maker in the country, Thomas Cooke of York and purchased a 9.3 inch refractor.

Crossley 9.3 inch Cooke

He would employ an astronomer Joseph Gledhill to do most of the observing due to his work and other commitments which took much of his time. Crossley would become mayor of Halifax from 1874-1878 and 1884-1885, and member of parliament for Sowerby from 1885-1892.

Edward Crossley and Joseph Gledhill would produce a classic Handbook of Double Stars with help from J M Wilson at the Temple Observatory at Rugby in 1879. This would become a clasic yet it is even today much overlooked by astronomers. There was also extensive observations made of the Moon, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn with the 9.3 inch Cooke.

In 1896 Cookes produced a new photovisual lens and Crossley purchased one for his telescope, the lens was slightly smaller at 9 inches but both Crossley and Gledhill were impressed with its performance.

The telescope would be used in Halifax first at the Park Road Observatory until 1872 and then later from the new Bermerside Observatory until 1904 with the Crossley refractor making its mark on British astronomy in the 19th century.

Crossley Observatory at Bermerside, 9 inch in turret next to glass building

Crossley died in 1905 and Gledhill in 1906, the telescope was purchased by   Rev David Kennedy at the Marist Seminary in Meeanee in New Zealand. An observatory was opened at Meeanee in 1907 with the Crossley 9 inch being the second largest telescope in New Zealand, the largest at that time was another Cooke telescope the 9.5 inch Cooke telescope that had been owned by Isaac Fletcher of Cumberland.

Meeanee in the 1920s

The Crossley was used to photograph Halley’s comet in 1910. After World War 1 the telescope was sold to Wellington City Council in New Zealand and in 1924 a new observatory to house the Crossley 9 inch telescope was opened. During the 1920s and 30s the observatory was run by amateur astronomers with public viewing nights. The 1936 annular eclipse of the Sun was observed using the Crossley telescope.

The last chapter in this story involves a local farmer, businessman and politician Charles Rooking Carter who when he died in 1896 left a sum of £2,240 to fund an astronomical observatory. The new Carter observatory was opened on December 20th 1941, but World War 2 meant that very little happened until 1945. Since then the telescope has seen extensive use including in 1968 an occultation of Neptune by the Moon. It was used for serious research work until 1971. Since this date modern telescopes have been used by astronomers at the Carer Observatory,

Crossley telescope today

In 1975 it was discovered that the chemicals in the photovisual glass would become stable over a period of time and by 2000 it was clear that in its original form the lens was unusable. So in 2001 a new and slightly larger 9.75 inch lens was installed.

Today the Crossley telescope is used for public viewing and education projects. It is a testament to its construction that a telescope made in York in 1867 is still being used in the 21s century 11,500 miles away in New Zealand.

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