Sunday 19 April 2020

Astronomy in the North West # 9 Joseph Baxendell 1815-1887

Joseph Baxendell 1815- 1887

Joseph Baxendell

Joseph Baxendell was born on April 15th 1815 at Bank Top, Manchester. He was a sickly child and at the age of 14 his father sent him on a ship to Valparaiso, Chile, for the fresh air that would ais his health. It must have worked because he made several other trips to South America and in 1833 while in Central America he saw the Leonid meteor shower on the night of November 12th/13th when around 240,000 meteors were seen, this started his great interest in astronomy.

Leonid meteor shower 1833

Following his trips to South America he settled back in Manchester and with his friend Mr Robert Worthington of Crumpsall Old Hall they erected the Crumpsall Observatory which housed a 13 inch Reflector, Baxendell cast, ground and polished the mirror. In 1859 he was appointed Astronomer to the corporation of Manchester. In 1863 he was elected president of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester. 

As far as I can discover Baxendell discovered around 20 new variable stars including a joint discovery in 1866 of T Corona Borealis the famous Blaze Star, the first of the recurrent nova, the star would go nova again in 1946.

Map showing T Corona Borealis on lower left

He also took a great interest in the study of meteorology and produced many papers in the study of this science.

In 1871 Baxendell was appointed the first superintendent of a new meteorological station located in Hesketh Park, Southport. In 1877 the polymath Thomas S Bazley who also had a great interest in astronomy donated a 6 inch Cooke telescope to Baxendell. This would allow him to continue his variable star work. The telescope cost £365 when it was purchased in 1867. Bazley also supplied the timber structure for the telescope. Baxendell renamed his house at 14, Liverpool Road, Birkdale, The Observatory.

Baxendell's Observatory was orginally the top wooden part, this is the observatory in  Hesketh Park c 1927

Being a devout Methodist Baxendell had the first line from Psalms chapter 19 from the King James Version of the bible painted around the base of the dome “The Heavens Declare The Glory Of God , And The Firmament Sheweth His Handiwork”

Joseph Baxendell died on October 7th 1887, his observatory was donated by his son in 1901 to the education department of Southport Corporation where it was rebuild upon a brick base in Hesketh Park with funding provided by John Fernley, The observatory can still be seen there today with its Cooke telescope.

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