Friday, 5 March 2021

James Nasmyth and his Cooke


James Nasmyth and his Cooke

1808-1890 Scottish engineer, philosopher and inventor of the Steam Hammer was also very interested in astronomy and when he retired from business in 1856 he moved to Penshurst in Kent to follow his interest in astronomy.

8 inch Cooke and Sons Telescope

In 1858 he purchased an 8 inch Cooke and Sons of York telescope which was complete in every respect possible. The telescope cost £600. Today that would be £75, 049!!

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Eclipse of the Moon seen through a Cooke in Brighton in 1856


Eclipse of the Moon seen through a Cooke in Brighton in 1856

Brighton Gazette Thursday 16th October 1856


Perhaps the following description of the beautiful lunar eclipse that took place on Monday, as seen from Howell’s observatory, at Hove, may not be uninteresting to some of your readers.

The moon was shinning with intense brightness over the sea, in a cloudless sky, S. E by S., and at an elevation of about 45 degrees, when, punctual to the predicted time, 9h. 21m., a slight diminution of light was evident on the eastern limb of our satellite, like a very faint wash of Indian ink, and after little a while she advanced in her easterly course, dipping into the earth’s shadow, this latter appeared like a small dent in the moon’s side, gradually growing deeper and wider, until a large piece seemed to have been actually eaten away. At this time the indented part could not he distinguished from the surrounding ebon sky, but about half an hour from the commencement, carefully looking through Howell’s equatorial for the obscured portion, I could plainly distinguish it, clearly defined by a sharp edge and of a delicate roseate hue, and which, on my drawing their attention to it, was also seen by Captain Shay and the other gentleman present. As the eclipse proceeded and more of the moon’s disc became covered by the earth s umbra, the red color grew much stronger, pervading, though with unequal intensity, the whole portion of the disc on which the shadow was advancing like a smoky haze, with a very flat curved outline. In advance of the curved and coppery umbra a variable band of bluish tint gradually came into view, sometimes very light, which continued until the period of deepest immersion (l1h. 54m.), when a very small portion of the moon’s upper limb remained visible, and of a yellowish green colour. For a quarter of an hour the moon remained almost entirely buried in the earth’s shadow, but still visible, the larger portion being of coppery glow, but towards the upper limb dissolving into orange, this again into blue, and the very small segment at the top into yellowish green. The appearance of the moon was now very peculiar, like a transparent body crossed by coloured zones, parallel to our horizon.

As time proceeded, the moon was seen slowly rising above the shadow (at one time looking like a crescent with its horns turned downward), and as more of the illumined surface came into view the colours gradually faded away, in reverse order, until the finally disappeared at 27 minutes after midnight, at the south-west edge of the disc, the obscuration having lasted just three hours six minutes. The obscuration of the moon made a very perceptible difference to the brilliancy of Jupiter, situated about to the west, and also to that of the stars which shone brightly all around, and two small ones within 15 degrees of the Moon itself. For a short time after eleven o’clock few clouds passed over the moon, and then the sky remained clear again to the end.

A total eclipse of the moon occurred some years ago, when, contrary to the expectation of several of us who were observing it, the moon’s disc remained visible as an ill-defined circle of coppery red, even when completely buried in the earth’s shadow. Remembering this made me desirous of watching the eclipse of last night, to see whether any similar phenomena would be displayed during a partial obscuration, and which I expected, because the eclipse was so nearly total. The appearances presented last night could be seen with the naked eye; but through the telescope we could also see the whole surface of the moon, and plainly distinguish the various spots, lines, and circular ranges of mountains so well known to astronomers.

The cause of the singular and beautiful appearances witnessed by last night was the refraction and decomposition of the sun’s light in passing through the earth’s atmosphere; but those desirous of investigating the subject will find it fully explained, on mathematical principles, in Herschell’s Outlines of Astronomy, sections 421, 422, 423, and 425. BARCLAY PHILLIPS. 75, Lansdowne Place, Brighton,

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

The Earliest Thomas Cooke Advert I have Found So Far

 The Earliest Thomas Cooke Advert I Have Found So Far

Yorkshire Gazette Saturday 4th March 1837


Mathematical and Philosophical Instruments made and repaired on reasonable Terms.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

A Cooke finds a Moon of Jupiter in the Wrong Place


A Cooke finds a Moon of Jupiter in the Wrong Place.

The Rev R J Gould at Mortimer Vicarage in Reading using a 5 inch Thomas Cooke and Sons of York telescope and was observing Jupiter on October 7th 1868 at 11h and 43 mins when he noticed an error in the Nautical Almanac on page 480.

It stated that the 3rd satellite will be on the west side of its primary in company with the 2nd and 4th; The fact was that it was on the east side with satellite number 1. The places of 2 and 4 were right enough but number 3 was certainly not so.

Gould goes on to say that we have no right to expect even the Nautical almanac to be absolutely free from errors and misprints, but I should like to know whether others have observed this or whether it can be shown to have been a mistake on the part of myself.

During the following days several observers confirmed Gould’s observations that the satellite was in the wrong place.

Monday, 1 March 2021

A Remarkable Meteor seen from York


A remarkable Meteor seen from York

J. Edmund Clark at York described a meteor he saw on March 1st 1896 at 8h and 31 mins, it travelled from beta to alpha Canis Minoris. The meteor lasted for 6.5 seconds. Other observations from observers suggest that the meteor came from a radiant point of 18 degrees and with a declination of +5, this is in the constellation of Pisces. This is a position where no meteor shower is known to exist.

Today I suspect this meteor would be classified as a sporadic.

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Possible TLP seen with a 4 inch Cooke by TGE Elger


Possible TLP seen with 4 inch Cooke by T G E Elger

TLP’s or Transient Lunar Phenomenon are bright patches which can be seen on the surface of the Moon. They are caused by gas escaping through cracks on the surface of the Moon. The term Transient Lunar Phenomenon seems to have been first used by the TV astronomer Patrick Moore.

On the 9th April 1867 TGE Elger from Bedford using a Thomas Cooke and Sons of York 4 inch telescope was waiting for the occultation by the Moon of the star 150 Tauri when a bright spot as bright as a 7th magnitude star appeared in the crater Aristarchus.

The spot was seen from 7h 30 min to about 8h and 15 min and it became much fainter. At 9h it was scarcely visible through the 4 inch telescope. Elger used powers of 75 and 115 on his Cooke telescope.

Could this be another example of an early observation of a TLP?

Friday, 26 February 2021

The William Coleman Cooke telescope becomes the Rev TER Phillips Cooke telescope


The William Coleman Cooke telescope becomes the Rev TER Phillips Cooke telescope

William Coleman 1824-1911 was the owner of Solton Manor near Dover, he had a strong interest in astronomy. He erected at his residence The Shruberry, Buckland near Dover an observatory housing an 8 inch Thomas Cooke and Sons of York telescope. His main interest was in double stars.

Cooke 8 inch

He had work published in the Royal Astronomical Society Memoirs vol Iiii containing the measurement of his double stars made in the years between 1893-1896 using the 8 inch telescope. The list included 161 double stars. Another list published I the Memoirs vol Iiv for the years 1897-1899 looked at 131 double stars. Again using the 8 inch telescope.

Following William Coleman’s death in 1911 his estate which was worth over £40,000 left numerous bequests including that the Thomas Cooke and Sons 8 inch telescope and observatory were offered to the Royal Astronomical Society who then leased them to the Rev T.E.R .Phillips who then re erected them at Ashstead in Surry. The telescope and original observatory would be moved again in 1916 when Phillips became rector of Headley also in Surrey. Phillip’s work on the planets and in particular Jupiter and Mars using the 8 inch Cooke was particularly important.

TER Phillpis with Coleman 8 inch Cooke and Coleman Observatory

William Coleman also had a smaller 4 inch Cooke and Sons telescope plus other accessories

which were sold by auction after his death.

Thursday, 25 February 2021

A 4 inch Cooke in Tewksbury


A 4 inch Cooke in Tewksbury

George Banaster observing from Mythe in Tewkesbury using a 4 inch Thomas Cooke and Sons telescope observed the Trapezium in Orion. In the autumn of 1895 he was able to glance some of the small stars in the Great Orion Nebula.

He noted that the positions of some of the stars were slightly different to those that were seen in the diagram on page 319 of Denning’s ‘Telescopic Works’.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

A Cooke in Derbyshire

A Cooke in Derbyshire 

John Thomas Barber 1825-1897.

Born in Derby on July 23rd 1825 Barber was of independent means but had a great interest in astronomy from the time he was an undergraduate at Cambridge. With Mr J Morgan he published an illustrated account of the Great Aurora of September 24th 1847 as seen from the Cambridge Observatory. He also calculated the ephemerides for the returns of comets.

In 1854 he married Jane With the eldest daughter of the late Rev Matthew With.

They moved to Spondon in Derbyshire in 1864 where he set up his 7.8 inch telescope which as made by Thomas Cooke and Sons of York. I believe he purchased the telescope early in 1864 because from August of 1864 until February 1866 he was purchasing additional equipment for his telescope from Cookes.

On the 16th April 1865 he observed for the first time that year the unilluminated side of the palnet Venus through the Cooke telescope using a power of 85.

While in Rome he observed an eclipse of the Moon on February 27th 1877, this of course did not require the Cooke telescope.

Barber observed Comet Wells on June 7th 1882 using the Cooke and sons telescope. He saw the comet at 8hours and 30 minutes or less than 10 minutes after sunset. He reported a large white discs but no tail was visible at this time.

Comet Wells was discovered on March 17th 1882 at the Albany Observatory in New York by Mr C S Wells assistant at the observatory. 

In 1884 he moved to Aston on Clue in Shropshire where observing conditions were not so good, the telescope was never usd again. Barber died here in 1897.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Telephones in York by Thomas Cooke and Sons


York Herald February 25th 1878

Telephones in York 

Thomas Cooke and Sons York are now prepared to give estimates for supplying telephones and laying the wires.

Examples of telephones of the period

Thomas Cooke and Sons of York not only made optical, horological and philosophical equipment they also moved with the times as the above advert indicates. and made telephones.

Monday, 22 February 2021

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, 21 February 2021

The Moon observed with a 10 inch Cooke in Denmark

 The Moon observed with a 10 inch Cooke in Denmark

On February 23rd 1905 V. Neilson at the Urania Observatory using the Thomas Cooke and Sons 10 inch Telescope observed the crater Petavius. He found that in the northern part many rills. In making the observations powers of 328 and 447 were used on the Cooke telescope.

Among the rills was a winding rill that attracted his attention. It came from the most northerly part of the central mountains and reaches in a North Westerly direction as far as the wall at the centre of the crater.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

The Largest Telescope in the World made in Manchester in 1881


The Largest Telescope in the world made in Manchester

Manchester Courier Wednesday 23rd February 1881

Messers, Galloway of Manchester, have just completed the manufacture of the largest telescope in the world. It has been made for Sir Henry Bessemer, (1813-1898) who had an observatory specially erected for its reception in Denmark Hill, a suburb on the south side of the Thames. The room in which it is to be placed with dome and windows so arranged as to revolve and keep pace automatically with every motion of the telescope. The upper end of the telescope will reach a height of about 45 feet.

Bolton Evening News Wednesday 23rd March 1881

Sir Henry Bessemer has, it is understood almost completed the construction at his home in Denmark Hill, of a telescope at which he has been working on for nearly 2 years. The instrument will be of such power that Sir Henry expects to be able by means of it to read a newspaper placed against the Crystal Palace, 3.5 miles distant.

The 40 inch Bessemer Telescope 

The telescope was a fully steerable 50 inch reflecting telescope with the mirror being made by George Calver. This mirror was not a success and was replaced by a 40 inch mirror. The telescope was mounted on a massive concrete foundation. There were two 6 inch Cooke refractors used as finders. The main telescope structure weighed around 12 tons. The dome had a clear internal diameter of 36 feet. The dome rotated on bearings powered by a turbine.

I have no idea what happen to this massive instrument, after the death of Sir Henry the instrument was offered to the British Astronomical Association however the running costs for such a large instrument were to high.

Sir Henry Bessemer was born near Hitchin in Hertfordshire and made his fortune in the iron and steel industry with large factories based in Sheffield.

Monday, 15 February 2021

Mercury seen with 2 inch Cooke


Mercury seen with 2inch Cooke

On February 15th 1868 at 6.15 pm William Lawton of Hull observed the planet Mercury, it was as he described one of the clearest views he had of that planet.

Using powers of 50 and up to 100 on the 2 inch Cooke and Sons telescope he was able to observe the gibbous aspect of the planet and also took note of its brilliancy.

Friday, 12 February 2021

1857 Occultation of Jupiter seen from Liverpool, reported in New Zealand


1857 Occultation of Jupiter seen from Liverpool reported in New Zealand

Lyttelton Times Wednesday 6th May 1857

I was interested to see that the occultation was being reported from the other side of the world, I don’t know if the editor of the paper was interested in astronomy or whether there were any connections between Liverpool and Canterbury in New Zealand  where the Lyttleton Times was based.

The occultation of the planet Jupiter on the evening of Jan. 3 was observed at Liverpool observatory. At the immersion the four satellites and the planet where all seen to disappear behind the moon. Clouds came over immediately after immersion of the fourth or proceeding satellite, but they speedily passed away and the immersion of the remaining three satellites and Jupiter was also observed. At their immersion the satellites became fainter for three or four seconds and then suddenly disappeared. The entire time of obscuration was 50 minutes 58 seconds. The most remarkable fact was that no distortion of the image Jupiter was noticed, contrary to almost all past experience.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

The Oldstead Observatory

 The Oldstead Observatory 

Oldstead is a village near Thirsk in North Yorkshire, there are suggestions that it was used by people who took telescopes to the top. The skies in the 19th century would have been very clear from the tower.

York Herald Saturday 28th October 1837

Relic of Mortality, at Oldstead .

The in- habitants of Oldstead in the North-Riding, and its vicinity, have had their curiosity much excited, during these few days past, by the discovery of the bones ft a human skeleton, which were found in digging the foundation of an observatory, on the estate of John Wormald Esq. of Oldstead Hall. They were turned up in the most secluded part of the property, at a place called Snever Point, which is situated on the heights of Black Hambleton, by the side of a wood, and according to Col. Mudge's Trigonometrical Survey, at a height 1246 feet above the level of the sea. Judging from the appearance of the skeleton, which is that of a female, it has lain in the earth for many years, and from the manner of its disposal, the body seeming to have been doubled up, when put into its grave, conjecture would assign a violent death to the individual whose remains are thus mysteriously brought to light. A piece of common flint was found amongst the bones, such as a person might carry about with them for the purpose of striking a light.

York Herald Saturday 7th July 1838

Oldstead— No one baa shewn more loyalty to their Queen and Sovereign, than Mr. Wormald. of Oldstead Hall, and the inhabitants of that village. Mr. Wormald gave a general invitation to all the villagers to assemble on the heights, and there to drink, in a bumper, the health of their Queen, which was done with the greatest feelings of loyalty, a band of music attending; after which, under the command of Mr. Sutton, a royal salute of 21 guns were fired from the terrace of the observatory.

This observatory, which was erected by Mr. Wormald to commemorate the first year of her reign, is a strong rough pile of stone. Upwards of 40 feet in height, standing upon a rock in the summit of a wood, 1140 feet above the level of the sea: and on the north side thereof bears the following inscription:— " John Wormald, in the first year of the reign of Queen Victoria, caused this Observatory to be erected.— John Dodds, builder." On the south side are the following lines, in every respect appropriate with the situation where this building stands:—

Here bills and waving groves a scene display,

And part admit, and part exclude the day;

See rich industry smiling on the plains,

And peace and plenty tell, Victoria reigns

Happy the man who to these shades retires,

Whom nature charms, and whom the muse inspires;

Who, wandering thoughtful in this silent wood,

Attends the duties of the wise and good;

To observe a mean, be to himself a friend,

To follow nature, and regard his end.

After this pleasing ceremony was over, a party of Mr. Wormwald’s friends retired to Oldstead Hall, where a cold collation was provided, and the same feeling prevailed to a late hour.  

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Liverpool International Exhibition of Photography 1888



Liverpool Mercury Friday 20th January 1888

Extract from paper

What Liverpool has done in the art science of photography from its discovery in 1839 to the present jubilee year of photographic discovery.

Celestial photography moves in an orbit of its own by being a society by itself. Liverpool owns a bright luminary in the person of Mr Isaac Roberts of Maghull, who is now engaged in mapping the heavens.

The old Liverpool society (photographic ) laid the foundation of this work and the following extracts will show this:- Dr Edwards FCS read a paper on the collodian photographs of the Moon Surface. He said that about the year 1854 the Liverpool Photographic Society recognising the importance of this subject, and the interest felt it in the British Association at the last meeting requested MR J A Forrest its secretary and My J Hartnup of the :Liverpool Observatory and himself , to act as a committee for obtaining photographs of the Moon by the Liverpool telescope, and to lay them before the present meeting.

The committee had produced a large number of pictures with variable success and some of the most perfect copies were now presented. The telescope is furnished with an excellent equatorial mounting and clock work motion of great firmness and steadiness. The object glass has a focal length of about 12.5 feet and a small camera box being substituted for the eye piece, the image is received upon the ground glass or prepared plate in the ordinary manner.

At the Liverpool Astronomical Society last month a paper was read on Celestial Photography:-At a joint meeting of the Literary and Philosophical and Astronomical Societies of Liverpool, Mr. Herbert Sadler,.FRAS read a paper on Celestial Photography, in which he referred to-the great advances which had lately been latterly been made in astronomy by the assistance of photography. Starting from the first crude and imperfect pictures of the sun and moon, astronomy and photography had marched hand in hand until the by present methods of manipulation enabled us to photograph objects which the eye can never hope to see.

The paper was profusely illustrated by celestial photographs; and in calling attention to go a picture of Capella Mr, Sadler explained that the rays which affected the plate started on their errand during the battle of Waterloo. As an illustration of the far-reaching power of the photographic eye, the map of the Pleiades constructed by M. Wolf contained 671 stars, and after a careful sounding in this direction with the largest telescope in the Paris Observatory, the author felt assured that all beyond was darkness, and that he had absolutely reached the utmost depths of space. But a photograph of the same district taken by the Brothers Henry, with a much smaller telescope, in one hour showed 1421 stars against the 671 which bad taken M Wolf three years to Map.

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

An Observatory for Maryport


An Observatory for Maryport

Maryport Advertiser Friday 18th September 1863

The late Mr Daniel Dawson in erecting the tall building at the South-West end of Crosby street, intended to furnish it with a large day and night telescope, camera obscure, and other instruments, suitable for an Observatory; but his sudden death occurring before his object was fully carried out, disappointed the hopes of many of his townsmen. The building is now let at a low rent as a dwelling house, but is still available for the object for which it was originally designed. The wish has lately been revived. It has been suggested to us that a joint stock company, under the Limited Liability Act, might readily be formed—say, at £1 per share; and for £l2O, or £l5O, the buiding might be provided with suitable instruments, and otherwise fitted up in the interior, so as to make it an attractive place of resort for our summer visitors as well as the inhabitants, on all occasions. We have submitted the plan to Thomas Cooke & Son, the Astronomical Instrument Makers, in York, and their reply•to our queries is as follows:

The Telescope you refer to, is of 4 inches aperture. The object glass is manufactured by ourselves,—the tube and eye pieces are French, of which 8 are astronomical and 2 terrestrial. The equatorial mounts are by Adie, of Edinburgh, and are on Professor Smyth's mortar principle. It in furnished with graduated hour circle, and tangent screw motions, and declination circle. The object is quite new and excellent. The price, as above described, is 30 Guineas. As to the Camera, I should require the size of the object, for which it is intended, before 1 can glee you as answer. Yours &c


We believe the Telescope here described cost, originally, £80—but was taken back into stock by Messrs. Cooke in lieu of one adapted for an enlarged establishment. It is quite unnecessary for us to expatiate on the advantages to the town generally, in having something which would prove attractive to our summer visitors. neighbouring towns are stealing a march on us, and if we do not bestir ourselves we shall be distanced in the race. If, after securing the necessary astronomical and Mathematical apparatus to satisfy the more philosophical class, a collection of such natural products as the district furnishes were stored up there, it would soon become a local museum, to which the annual subscribers residing in the town could resort at, any time, especially when eclipses, comets, or other astronomical phenomena were to be seen while the strangers would find it a pleasant, as well as profitable place of resort to while away their tedious hours, and give a pleasing variety to their otherwise monotonous occupations. We shall shortly return to this subject. In the meantime let our friends digest some plan of carrying out the object.

Monday, 1 February 2021

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.

Liverpool Astronomical Society 1884

 Liverpool Astronomical Society 1884

Liverpool Mercury Wednesday 25th June 1884

The fifth meeting of this society during the present session was held at the association hall, on Monday evening, the Rev. T. E. Espin, B.A, FRAS in the chair. Mr. Isaac Roberts, FRAS, gave a description of his recent experience in photographing the stars and nebulae. The method he had- adopted was to fix two, and sometimes three, cameras upon the declination axis of his large telescope, and to take simultaneous photographs of a star-group or nebula, using similar plates, and allowing the same exposure to each.- The Chairman said the results obtained by Mr. Roberts were most valuable, and the society was much indebted to him. The observatory at West Kirby had lately been furnished with one of Grubb's large stellar cameras, fitted with clock motion and equatorialy mounted, and he hoped shortly to be able to give a satisfactory account of its performance.

Mr. S. B Peal advanced a new theory of lunar formation. He had been struck by the inadequate explanations at present in vogue and, after a critical examination of the lunar surface, was led to believe that the rings and angular formations were caused by condensed vapour, snow of a sort, though not necessarily the same as ours. In the case of the Himalsyas, the snow lies for ages unchanged, even under a vertical tropical sun. The objection that the snow would appear dazzling white was met with the suggestion that meteoric dust falls on our polar regions, even in such a quantity as to be visible to the eye. and our snow is re-newed, whilst the lunar snow would be permanent.

Captain W Noble, FRAS, held that this theory entirely failed to account for the physical aspect of the moon. Every one who had looked at the moon through a telescope would be familiar with the light green hue of the sea of serenity, and the somewhat bluer green of the sea of humours. Other districts also exhibited a variety of colours, so that the amount of meteoric dust necessary to produce those effects would have thrown the recent efforts of Krakatoa wholly into the shade. Moreover, it would be remembered that the photo- metric determination of the moon's light shows that her surface is nearer black than white. Nor did Mr. Peal seem. to consider the recent re- searches of Lord Rosse, who had calculated that the moon roust at tines be heated to something like 500 degrees Fahr., a condition that certainly did not obtain on the Himalayas.

Mr. J. IV. Appleton, F. R A.S., said the limit of the terrestrial snow-line depended more upon temperature than height, and varied, with the latitude, from the level of the sea to 16,000 feet above it.

Mr.W. H. Davies, FRAS remarked that Captain Noble’s argument, based on the determination of the moon's light, seemed to have been anticipated by the theory of meteoric dust. But it struck him that this was getting out of one difficulty only to get into another; for if the sun's rays were not reflected , they must be absorbed, and then what became of the snow?

P'apers were also contributed by Mr. W. H. Gage, F.R A.S., on Variable Stars; by Mr. H. Corder, on " Meteors ;" and by Mr. Stanley Williams, on " The Comet Pons.-' Dr. William Huggins, FRS and the Rev. S. J. Perry, F.R.S. (Stoney- burst), were elected associates, and nine new members were elected. Several photographs of stars and nebula were exhibited, and a simple equatorial mounting for small telescopes was described.

Sunday, 31 January 2021

Letter sent from William Gascoigne to William Crabtree in 1641


Letter sent from William Gascoigne to William Crabtree

January 25th 1641

William Gascoigne wrote a lengthy letter to his friend William Crabtree of Salford talking about his rudimentary micrometer and a telescopic sight. He also gave advice on how to illuminate the ‘hairs’ suggesting that he was already using the device.

This is the first reference to a micrometer being made and then tested.

Saturday, 30 January 2021

Liverpool Astronomer declared Bankupt


Liverpool Astronomer declared Bankupt

Liverpool Mercury Friday 19th May 1899

LIVERPOOL BANKRUPTCY COURT. THURSDAY, MAY 18th Before Mr. Registrar Bellringer.


Re William Edward Jackson.-This debtor, a commission agent, carrying on business at 10, Victoria-street, Liverpool, came up for public examination. The statement of affairs showed liabilities of £10,201, whilst the assets he re- turned at £10, 650, showing a surplus.-Mr. Layton appeared for the debtor, who was examined by the official receiver, and stated that for some years he had been in Constantinople in the service of the firm of John R. Thomson and Co., and subsequently came to this country to act as their sole agent. This was in 1895, and he then had a capital of about £2500. This consisted of shares, cash in hand and other matters, an interest in a paper mill in Constantinople, and also an astronomical observatory. The latter he valued at £600.-The official receiver having asked the debtor if he was an astronomer, the debtor replied that astronomy was his hobby, and that he had erected the observatory at his own charge, and furnished it with valuable in- instruments, at a total cost of £1200; he therefore thought he was within the mark in valuing it at £600. It appeared that the debtor had had extensive operations with the firm of Thomson and Sons in the matter of accommodation bills, which he had accepted, although he himself got no benefit from them, and that Thomson and Sons were now in liquidation.

Friday, 29 January 2021

The Madras Observatory


The Madras Observatory

Madras Weekly Mail Wednesday 5th February 1890

Mr. N. Pogson, C.L.E , Government Astronomer, in submitting an estimate of Rs. 2,772 for making certain repairs, reports an follows:

Herewith, I have the honor to submit, in duplicate, an estimate for necessary repairs of the Government Observatory, amounting to Rs 2,772, together with an accompanying report by H. Irwin, Esq., C.L.E the Consulting Architect to Government. The repairs have been much needed for some years past, but were deferred, as the transit circle could not then be spared without serious inconvenience. This fine instrument, which cost I, believe about £1,200, was under the very beams, the collapse of which was most imminent; so after Mr. Irwin’s warning I lost no time in dismounting and removing the transit circle on a strong temporary wooden roller stand to a more secure part of the observatory, pending the repairs of the transit circle room. The telescope cones, bearing the eyepiece and objective, the counterpoises, damps, microscopes, &c., were all taken off on November 16th, assisted by workmen from Messrs. P. Orr and Sons; in consequence of the risk in case of heavy rain, the remainder of the instrument, weighing about 400 lb, was carefully removed bodily on Sunday, November 17th, and the building placed at the Consulting Architect's disposal for whatever emergent precautions in the way of propping and otherwise securing the roof he might consider necessary. During the repairs of the transit room the Madras mean time has to be determined by means of a small transit instrument by Dollond, formerly in use between 1858 and 1862, but with which the time in less certain within half a second than it is within half-a-tenth of a second with the transit circle. The early completion of the repairs is most desirable and advantage will be taken meanwhile for thorough cleaning up of the large instrument on the spot under my own immediate superintendence with such help as I can obtain from Messrs. P. Orr & Sons. The estimate has been sanctioned by government.

Madras Observatory c 1890

Thursday, 28 January 2021

Fat Pig Slaughtered at Harlow Hill Observatory, Harrogate

 Fat Pig Slaughtered at Harlow Hill Observatory, Harrogate

Bradford Observer Thursday 23rd January 1845

Mr. Thomas Hodgson, keeper of the Observatory on Harlow Hill, near Harrogate, a few days ago, slaughtered a fat pig of the Chinese species, seventeen weeks old, which was bred by Mr. Henry Culling- worth, of Fulwith Mill. The diminutive creature when dressed, when weighed only nine pounds, inclusive of the head and feet.

Harlow Hill Observatory 

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.