Friday, 14 May 2021

A Cooke for sale in Leeds


Leeds Mercury Thursday 13th March 1879

A Splendid Telescope for Sale by Cooke of York, object glass 4.5 inches diameter; equatorial bearings, micrometer &c, in large circular house with moveable top. Apply Anthony Robinson 27 Upperhead- row, Leeds

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Comet Nicolett Pons 1821 seen from Yorkshire


Leeds Intelligencer Monday 5th March 1821

The Comet. The new comet Observatory, Gosport, Feb. 24.

A comet made its appearance here last evening at 35 minutes past six o'clock, within two or three degrees of Algenib, the last star in the wing of Pegasus. It is 32 degrees to the east of the sun, and sets with Saturn soon after eight o'clock, about W. N. W. but is 18.5 degrees to the north of that planet. Its small light nucleus was surrounded by a diffused coma, three fourths of a degree in diameter by the sextant, and its perpendicular tail, was nearly 4 degrees in length when the coruscations were most vivid, through the upper part of which a small star of the sixth magnitude was perceived by the help of a telescope. This is unquestionably the same comet that Seigneur Pons, Astronomer of the Ductless of Lucca, discovered in the constellation Pegasus, in the evening of thee 21st ult., but which, to our knowledge, has not yet been seen by the English astronomers.

Leeds Intelligencer Monday 5th March 1821

The new comet has been seen at Wakefield, and also at Bingley. Its nucleus is exceedingly brilliant; its tail, which is about four degrees in length, appears larger at the beginning than at the extremity. Its apparent motion is very slow; it has barely proceeded two degrees and a half in right ascension and declension from the 21st of January last, to the 22nd of Feb. It sets about eight o'clock in the evening. The most favourable time for seeing it is, therefore, from six to half-past seven o'clock. It is in the West and still in the constellation of Pegasus. We have not yet heard of its having been observed at Leeds.


This was comet Nicolett-Pons (J N Nicolett Royal Observatory Paris and J L Pons Marlia Italy) was discovered on January 21st 1821 near gamma Pegasus, it was at its brightest on March 6th when it was reported at between magnitude 3 to 4.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

The telescope left on the train


Sheffield Daily Telegraph Saturday 16th March 1867

Unclaimed Property on Railways

Among the curious things connected with the business of railways are the variety and strange character of the unclaimed property which falls in to the hands of the railways as carriers of passengers and goods.

One person has left a very superior astronomical telescope in mahogany case complete, and it is now unclaimed. Where is its owner and what has he been doing to render himself unconscious of the loss he has sustained? Or has he abandoned the study of astronomy for the more prosaic and common occupations of the earth?

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

A Cooke in Glasgow


A Cooke in Glasgow

Mr Dansken and his Patrickhill Cooke

John Dansken who was born in Glasgow in 1836 was by profession a surveyor and an enthusiastic amateur astronomer who built an observatory at his home in Patrickhill, Glasgow which included a 5 inch telescope by Thomas Cooke of York, there was also a larger 13 inch reflector made by D Hunter of Lanark.

A number of smaller instruments were also housed there including telescopes by Wray and Dollond. |He also had one of the finest astronomical libraries in the West of Scotland. John Dansken died in 1905.

Monday, 10 May 2021

Astronomy Lectures in Pontefract


Leeds Mercury Saturday 24th August 1822

Astronomical Lectures Theatre Pontefract

Mr Goodacre proposes to deliverer a course of FOUR LECTURES on ASTRONOMY at the THEATRE at PONTEFRACT on Friday August 23rd, Monday, the 26th, Wednesday the 28th and Friday 30th at 7.00 o’clock each evening precisely. An introductory lecture comprising the history of astronomical research from the earliest records to the present time, will be delivered on Wednesday 21st, at the same hour. This lecture will be gratis to subscribers and the money paid for admission by non subscribers, will be given without any deduction whatever to the funds of the Pontefract Dispensary.

Terms: for the whole course:- Boxes 10s pit 8s Gallery 6s. To each lecture Box 3s Pit 2s 6d Gallery 2s.

Mr Goodacre is very happy again to visit the West Riding of Yorkshire and he respectfully informs the friends of the Science of the Universe that he proposes to deliver his lecture in every town in this interesting district where accommodation, suitable for the reception of his extensive apparatus, can be obtained, not doubting but that the same liberal patronage, which was last autumn at Bradford, Leeds and Wakefield conferred on his first efforts as a public lecturer, will be again bestowed on his exertions.

Pontefract August 15th 1822

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Mercury seen over Yorkshire

Mercury seen over Yorkshire 

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer Saturday 10th March 1906

Mercury Visible

To the Editor of the Yorkshire Post, Sir-

Many of your reader may be interested to know that the planet Mercury was seen just over the horizon at 6.20 this (Thursday) evening here. He was easily visible to the naked eye, yours etc STAR-GAZER

Scarborough March 8th

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer Monday 12th March 1906


To the Editor of the Yorkshire Post, Sir- If was STAR GAZER (of Scarborough) himself who saw the planet Mercury at 6.20 Thursday evening last, then I congratulate him upon the performance of the feat. If it was not STAR GAZER then the letter is not quite clear the point—then I congratulate theother fellow." The sun had been 32 minutes, and the planet set about of three quarters of an hour after being glimpsed.

It is enough to make that astronomic giant. Copernicus. turn in his grave. Great astronomer as he was he never had the satisfaction—so the tradition says- of seeing the sparkling planet under any circumstances whatever. But then, did not live at Scarborough.— Yours, etc.. J H ELGIE F .R.A.S. Leeds.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer Tuesday13th March 1906


Sir.—Mr. Elgie doubts my having seen Mercury last Thursday at 6.30. If it had been an ordinary occurrence I should not have called attention to it. Let Mr. Elgie imagine the conditions a perfectly clear western horizon, a strong north-west gale having been blowing all day. An observer on the watch for the planet and looking in the right place, a sweep of open country before him.

Jupiter was well visible of course Aldebaran just visible. A and B Arietts not yet so and Mars not yet so. if Iremember rightly.

Can Mr. Elgie name a star in Pisces that I could possibly have mistaken for the planet?

Copernicus did not in Scarborough, quite true. If he had hie would have seen Mercury many times, for I saw him at least half a dozen times last year from the same spot, and you can't mistake his ruddy flash.

I think Sir Robert Ball says first magnitude stars may be seen with the Sun 5 degrees below the horizon. On this occasion I roughly calculate the Sun would be 6 degrees below and Mercury about 7 degrees above. On point, however, not profess to speak with precision. Yours, etc.. STAR-GAZER. Scarborough. March 12.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer Wednesday 14th March 1906

Sir,—Mercury was well here to-night (Monday), from 6.15 p.m. to 7.35 p.m., when it became obscured by light clouds. It was of course,by this time nearly set.

I can understand "Star-Gazar," of Scarborough having seen it on Thursday evening last if he had anything of a clear night. After viewing this some what difficult object in the telescope, I read off right and declination circles the telescope and found they corresponded with those given in the Nautical Almanac, allowing a little, of course, for the planet's motion from the epoch, for which the N.A. times are given—which proves that Mercury was the object seen.—Yours, etc..

H. FIELDEN. Member the Leeds Astronomical .Society. 67, Bootham, York.

The Antiques Roadtrip, Thomas Cooke and Me

 The Antiques Roadtrip, Thomas Cooke and Me

I was asked last September to be the guest expert on the telescope maker Thomas Cooke when the Antiques Road Trip visited York.

The programme was filmed under the Covid 19 restrictions in force at the time.

The programme will be shown on BBC1 at 4.30pm on Tuesday 11th May. It wil then be available on catch up.

Standing next to David Harper with my red rain coat. I did not have a BBC umbrella!


Saturday, 8 May 2021

Astronomical Lectures in Leeds in 1810


Leeds Mercury Saturday 22nd September 1810

Theatre Leeds

Mr Llyod has the honour most respectfully to inform the Ladies and Gentlemen of Leeds and its Vicinity, that he intends, early as the proper arrangements can be made to give his COURSE. of ASTRONOMICAL LECTURES, illustrated by the :

DIOASTRODOXON, Or Grand Transparent Orrery, Accompanied by tlae CELESTINA.

With all the splendid Scenery, explanatory of the seasons, eclipses , tides and comets as exhibited in London, and the University of Oxford. -The Whole forming the most perspicuous and comprehensive view of the WORKS of the CREATOR in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Lloyd's extensive improvements on the Transparent Orrery, having excited humble Imitations, under the Description of Originals and Descriptions and as no Person whoever read upon a Transparent Orrery was ever the Inventor of one, he feels it his Duty to caution the Public, against being imposed upon by so notorious quackery.

Subscription to the Course, Three Lectures, Nine Shillings, Epitome included – tickets transferable

Subscriptions are received at the Leeds Mercury Office, where may be had an Epitome of the Course . Non- Subscribers Price One Shilling.

Friday, 7 May 2021

Occultation of Saturn seen from Leeds in 1900


 Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer Friday 7th September 1900


To the Editor of The Yorkshire Post. Sir,—

This interesting phenomenon was seen here on Monday, 3rd inst. The disappearance took place at the dark east limb of the moon, and lasted about 80 seconds, the west part of the ring, then the planet, then the east part of ring, being successively hidden. The major axis outer ring measured about 40in. The moon, near meridian, had an altitude of some 15 deg, and was yellowish. Saturn appeared very pale, almost white, in comparison with the moon.

The times of beginning and ending were, approximately, 7h. 12m. 18s., and 71a 13m. 28S, so that the occultation hero occurred earlier than Greenwich, for which place 7h. 16m. was the predicted time for disappearance, and 8h. 11M for reappearance. The reappearance of the planet the moon’s bright west limb was entirely lost in cloud.

The telescope is a 3.25 inch refractor, and I observed with power of 105.—Yours, etc., C. T. WHITMELL, President Leeds Astronomical Society. Leeds. 6th September.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

An Observatory for Harrogate

 An Observatory for Harrogate

Leeds Intelligencer Thursday 22nd January 1829


We are glad to hear of an intended improvement in the neighbourhood of this useful and fashionable watering place. A spirited individual has purchased a plot of land (at a distance of nearly a mile) upon one of the highest situations, an on which he is going to erect a tower, of such height, as to give a view of the East Coast as well as to a great extent in other directions, for the accommodation of visitors.

It is intended to be known by the appellation of the ‘Pannal High Ash Tower’ - being near to a place where a high ash tree grows, in the township of Pannal. The roof we understand will be furnished with one of the best hand telescopes which can be purchased. The tower to be finished by the middle of May.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Lord Rosse 72 inch Telescope

 Lord Rosse 72 in Telescope 

Leeds Intelligencer Saturday 28th November 1840

A magnificent telescope has recently been constructed by Lord Oxmantown in Ireland as gigantic as that of Sir William Herschel , but without any of the imperfections which have rendered the latter useless.

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

A Noteable Shoemaker, not Cooke


Sheffield Daily Telegraph Tuesday 4th February 1896


On Sunday morning- there was carried to the grave at Darlington Cemetery Mr. W. H. Harris, who was a working shoemaker, living in a poor neighbourhood, at Hank Top, Darlington. Mr. Harris, who was 54 years old the time his death, was born at Barnard Castle.

Though working hard at his trade, he had attained local celebrity as an astronomer, and maker of telescopes with 9 inch and 12inch mirrors, which he, ground, figured, and silvered. This work required nice mathematical calculations, which he carefully worked out. He had intimate knowledge of optics, botany, astronomy, electricity, etc., and was a good French scholar. Mr. Harris was self-taught.

Monday, 3 May 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.

Comet Trailes 1819


Comet Trailes 1819 

Leeds Intelligencer Monday 12th July 1819


The following communication from Mr. Christie of the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, contains probably all that can be yet known of this celestial phenomenon:—• “I first observed the comet," observes Mr. Christie, “last night (Saturday) a minutes before 11 o'clock, and judge that it came to the meridian about 12. Its elevation above the horizon appeared about 10°, and the sun being at the time nearly below, its distance from the sun cannot much exceed 25°.

The night was remarkably light, and the moon uncovered by clouds—circumstances extremely unfavourable to the brilliancy of its appearance; and considering this, I should judge that, under more favourable circumstances, its splendour would be equal to that of any comet upon record—the head viewed with Capella (to the east of it) in brilliancy. The length of the tail, which, when the comet was on the meridian, pointed somewhat to the west of the zenith, extended about 15degrees; and unlike the comet of 1811, it appeared to proceed immediately from the nucleus.

I viewed it for some time through an excellent small reflector, by Watson, and observed, that the nucleus was much denser than that of the former comet, and that there was no separation between it and the coma, but that the body became gradually rarer, and in the upper part expanded into the tail; which appearance may arise from a very dense atmosphere surrounding the nucleus, and reaching to the rarer fluid forming the tail, if there be any distinction between the two fluids, as appears to have been the case with the comet 1811.

I may observe, that this as in all other comets, the appearance to the naked eye is much more striking and brilliant than through telescope. The Comet passed the meridian below the Pole, at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, on Saturday, July 3, about midnight, when its place was determined as follows :

Apparent right ascension 6h. 51m. 56S

North polar distance, corrected for re fraction 43 d 18 m 47.s

Mean time of observation .12h 6m 56s

The Comet was again observed on Monday night (July 5), but not till it had passed the meridian, when the following observations was made :

Apparent right ascension . 7h. 0m 9s

North Polar Distance 43 d 34m 48s

Mean time of observation 12h 36m 04s

This was comet 1819 also known as Trailes comet that was discovered on July 1st 1819 by the German astronomer Johann Georg Trailes. The comet was an easy naked eye object reaching between magnitude 1 to 2.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

The Coats Observatory


The Coats Observatory

At the 1880 Annual meeting of the Paisley Philosophical Institution, it was proposed that the society should purchase an astronomical telescope. Mr Thomas Coats of Ferguslie, then a member of the council with advice from Professor Grant at Glasgow University a 5 inch telescope by Cooke of York was obtained.

Mr Coats provided an observatory with a sum of £2,000. This Coats Observatory would become the oldest public observatory in Scotland. On the 10th September 1883 the observatory was opened to members of the philosophical society and was then opened to the public from Monday 1st October 1883.

The 5 inch Cooke on top of the 10 inch Grubb

Mr Donald McLean one of Professor Grant’s assistants was appointed first curator. Between 1892-1898 additional equipment including a 10 inch telescope by Grubb of Dublin would be added.

The Cooke telescope would be used throughout the 19th ans 20th century in order to promote astronomy. In 1963 the running of the observatory passed from the Paisley Philosophical Society to that of the town council. This placed the observatory under the museum and galleries committee.

At present the Coats observatory is closed and us due to reopen in 2023 as part of the Paisley Museum Re imagined project.

Saturday, 1 May 2021

An Eclipse Observed in Ceylon with a Cooke


An Eclipse observed in Ceylon with a Cooke 

Englishman's Overland Mail Wednesday 27th December 1871

The Eclipse as Observed in Ceylon

The solar eclipse on December 12th 1871 was most favourably observed at all the stations occupied by the scientific party under Mr Lockyer’s direction as well as by Mr Janssen. Important scientific results may be expected to be shortly made known as indicated in the the message from Mr Lockyer.

Here in Colombo the weather during the eventful morning was all that could be desired, but being beyond the line of totality and shadow no special scientific value can be attached to the highly interesting observations made here by several gentlemen.

Our column this time will be unusually full of information respecting the eclipse and the special expeditions sent from home to observe it. About 3.5 inches of rain fell in Colombo between 8 00 pm on the 11th and 5.00 am on the 12th. We add the results of local observations:- the Sun rose obscured by clouds, which cleared off by about 6.30 .The whole surface of the Sun presented the usual strippled broken appearance, with here and there large spots. In the neighbourhood of these spots the strippling was more apparent than over the parts free of spots, but they came out in bold relief on the part of the Sun close to the Moon’s limb. Probably this increase of distinctness was caused by contrast of the black spot &c of the dark limb of the moon. This could not be seen through the 3-inch telescope. Some little time before the greatest obscuration a halo was visible around the sun, which gave place to short bright rays. This latter appearance was probably an ocular deception, as no trace of it was visible through the 4.5-inch telescope under a low power.

At the greatest obscuration no trace of corona was observable through the same instrument, with a solar eyepiece with a power of about 30. This was carefully looked for. The unobscured portion of the sun, about 15-16ths of its disc, was well defined, without appendages of any kind. Towards the time of centrality the diminution of daylight was very conspicuous—going from the open air into the house it was very striking. Standing in the centre of the room, and looking through the open window, the sun-shine outside was of a neutral tint. The crows commenced to assemble on the tree-tops, cawing after their usual fashion, when preparing for their night's rest. The planet Venus, high in the sky, was distinctly visible to the naked eye, and Jupiter, low down in the western horizon, was plainly discernible with the aid of an opera-glass. The thermometer at the commencement of the eclipse indicated 91.5 °F in the sun. At 7-15 it showed a rise of 2.5 degrees and at the greatest phase it had fallen to 84.5°. In the shade it stood at 76 degrees; at 6-45 and at the greatest obscuration at 75° At 9-10, with the full blaze of the then unobscured sun, the thermometer indicated 113 °; in the shade 81°.

Mr. Van Dort, of the Surveyor- General's Department, with the aid of a 3-inch telescope, power 50, made some careful drawings of the different phases of the eclipse. The attempt to take the time of first contact and the ending of the eclipse proved abortive. An ordinary watch was the only time- keeper at hand.

Instruments used in the above observations : Equatorial Telescope by Cooke and Sons, of York, 4.5 inches clear aperture, 66 inches focal length. Telescope by same makers, 3 inches clear aperture, 42 inches focal length, mounted on tripod stand."