Monday 31 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.

Cooke at York Exhibtion


Yorkshire Gazette Saturday 7th May 1881

York Exhibition

In the space intervening between the central and Great Halls, a large equatorial mounted telescope which stands 15 feet high is exhibited by Messrs T Cooke & Sons York opticians, the instrument which is an object of curiosity with an object glass of 10 inches.

The sale price is £1200 (my note; at today's prices that telescope would cosy nearly £150,000)

Sunday 30 May 2021

A Cooke for Brussels


Yorkshire Gazette Saturday 15th May 1880

A York Telescope for Brussels Observatory

Messrs T Cooke & Sons, opticians of this city, had the honour some time agi of receiving an order from the Belgium Government for an equatorial mounting for a telescope with an object glass of 15 inches diameter, which is to be placed in the Royal Observatory Brussels.

15 inch Cooke 

The work has just been completed, and the instrument presents a fine specimen of mechanical art and skill. The tube about 21 feet in length, and the stand 13 feet high. The instrument is fitted with all the latest appliances, including clockwork of very delicate construction by which the telescope caused to follow the movement of the star on which it is fixed. The firm expect to pack and forward the instrument towards the end of the month.

York Herald Saturday 15th May 1880

The telescope for the Belgium Government may be inspected by those whose who are interested.

Saturday 29 May 2021

A Telephone and Phonograph with Cooke


York Herald Saturday 11th May 1878

De Grey Rooms York

A Grand Military Concerts will be given the above rooms on Monday 13th May 1878 in aid for the funds providing a clock with Westminster chimes and bells for the church of Holy Trinity, Heworth, York.

Messrs T Cooke and Sons will be exhibiting the Telephone during the interval of 15 minutes.

Messrs T Cooke and Sons, York will exhibit and give illustrations of the TELEPHONE and if possible they will also exhibit the latest wonder THE PHONOGRAPH

Friday 28 May 2021

Cooke advert 1877


York Herald Friday 28th December 1877

Magic Lanterns and Sciopticons

Dissolving View Apparatus, Photographic Views. Instructive and Comic Slides, New Subjects


Evening parties attended with the above; also with vacuum tubes and other electric apparatus.


Microscope apparatus and objects and mounting materials


Coney Street and Buckingham Works, York

Thursday 27 May 2021

Cooke in a York Bank


York Herald Wednesday 23rd December 1874

York City and County Bank

The spacious new and enlarged bank offices in Parliament Street, which have been in progress of erection during the last eighteen months, for the use of this company, will be opened to the public for business on Monday morning next. The present bank was erected in 1835.

Below there is ample strong room accommodation which is connected to the bank by means of ingenious hydraulic lifts, provided by Messrs T Cooke and Sons.

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Cooke and the clock in Darlington


York Herald Saturday 3rd July 1869

District News


Darlington Town Council

It was decided to place the repair and cleaning of the town clock in the hands of Messrs Cooke and sons of York

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Occultation seen through a Cooke in Canada


Dr J C Donaldson of Fergus, Ontario, Canada using a 3.5 inch Thomas Cooke telescope obtained a glimpse of the 9th magnitude star in Cancer just before it was occulted by Jupiter on May 22nd 1896.

Several other observers had attempted to watch the occultation in Canada many with much larger telescopes but were unsuccessful.

Monday 24 May 2021

An asteroid for Manchester


758 Mancuria

On May 18th 1912 Harry Edwin Wood who was chief assistant at the Union Observatory in South Africa discovered an asteroid, it was named Mancuria after the city in which he was born, Manchester. He would discover 12 asteroids between 1911-1932.

Mancuria is the Latin name for Manchester

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 23 May 2021

A Cooke at Greenwich


London Daily News Thursday 8th March 1888

An Addition to Greenwich Observatory.

FLAMSTEED’S famous institution on Greenwich Hill has been crowned with another dome. Nine or ten years ago Professor GREENE of the Polytechnic Institute at Troy, desiring to construct a dome on a somewhat larger scale than usual, found that the heavy metal roof ordinarily set up would require a more substantial structure than he co could conveniently provide, and that powerful of machinery would be necessary for making it revolve. He determined to try what could be re done with papier mache. The experiment was a complete success. His dome proved as strong as though constructed of wood and iron, and so light that it could be turned without machinery of any kind.

Greenwich shortly after had occasion to construct, a dome, and very wisely adopted the new material. The one just now completed is the second constructed during Mr. CHRISTIE'S regime. It is eighteen feet in diameter, and is designed for the Cooke 6-inch equatorial telescope, with a photo-heliograph tube attached to the same mount. This combined instrument is to be carried on a huge as block of stone weighing 3 tons, and will stand at a sufficient elevation above the other buildings and the surrounding trees to command a complete view of the sun throughout in the day.

This is what Greenwich has been unable to do hitherto, and in his last report to the Board of Visitors the ASTRONOMER ROYAL draws attention to the difficulty under which the work of the photo-heliograph has been n carried on in past years owing to the want of such an observatory as he has now succeeded in setting up, though as yet unfortunately the funds for the complete equipment of the new al building are not forthcoming. It has been hinted, by those who certainly are in a position to be well informed, that unless somewhat greater liberality be extended to the Observatory it may become necessary to discontinue the time signals, upon which the country has come to rely almost as implicitly as on the rising and setting of the sun.

It would certainly be a novel sensation for the public to find their supply of Greenwich time cut off, after the manner of the water companies when they cannot get their money. This is certainly rather a formidable screw Mr. CHRISTIE has at command, though it is to be hoped he may not have occasion to apply it to the Treasury. There is no doubt, however, that to stint funds at Greenwich Observatory is very poor policy. Its practical utility in all sorts of ways is simply incalculable.

We may add to what has been stated about the new building, that it is here that Greenwich will take its a share in the projected complete photographic map of the starry heavens.

Saturday 22 May 2021

Observatory and Cooke Telescope for sale in Liverpool


Pall Mall Gazette Friday 2nd January 1885


To be SOLD, a bargain, on account of the owner's eyesight, an excellent Equatorial-mounted TELESCOPE by Cooke, 4.5 inch diam.; Dawe's solar and numerous other eyepieces, micrometer, induction coil and battery, automatic and star spectroscopes, spark condenser, clock by Cooke, barometer 7-10 diam., observing chair, complete sets of the memoirs and monthly notice's of the R.A.S., Astronomical Register and Observatory, with indexes, and a number of other astronautical works, all in the best possible condition. The above presents a very rate opportunity to astronomical students

Address "Telescope," care of Lee and Nightingale, Advertising Agents, Liverpool.

Friday 21 May 2021

74 inch Telescope at the 1951 Festival of Britain


The 74 inch telescope at the 1951 Festival of Britain

2021 sees the 70th anniversary of The 1951 festival of Britain a national exhibition that was visited by millions of people during the summer of 1951.

74 inch telescope at the 1951 Festival of Britain

Among the many futuristic displays was the 74 inch telescope built by Grubb Parsons of Newcastle, after the festival it was sent to the Mount Stromlo Observatory in Australia where sadly it was destroyed by a bush fire during 2003.

Thursday 20 May 2021

Comet seen from Fleetwood with a Cooke


Preston Chronicle Saturday 20th May 1882


The Comet -We learn that a distinct and brilliant view of the latest addition to the solar system the new comet, bas been obtained by the Rev. .James Pearson, M.A, vicar of Fleetwood, by the aid of his four-inch equatorial (Cooke), from positions given in the Dunecht Ephemeris for May 10th. The tail was sufficiently long to traverse the field of the instrument, but it is still only visible in a telescope like that named.

Wednesday 19 May 2021

Leeds Observatory 1906


Leeds Mercury Saturday 27th January 1906



One the old stone houses on the Woodhouse Moor Reservoir at the Grammar School side has been adapted for astronomical use and a large 18-inch reflector telescope has been placed in position there. This telescope is the gift of Major Duncombe, and is fitted with the customary mounting, range-finding, and clockwork appliances. In an adjoining room a transit instrument has been mounted, and this, like the telescope, is now almost completely adjusted for use. The dome of aluminium is moveable, and apertures may be opened to suit the convenience of the astronomer.

Tuesday 18 May 2021

Cooke on display in Sunderland


Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette Friday 17th February 1882

The Sunderland Scientific and Industrial Exhibition

The exhibition will be held at the Skating Rink Hudson Road and included Mr John G Allison of the Old Rectory Monkwearmouth, who exhibited a portable telescope which will be found worthy of our astronomical students.

The object glass in 4 inches in diameter and 5 feet focal length withy polished brass tube and finder attached. It has 4 eyepieces powers from 80 to 300 and is fixed on a strong polished walnut tripod stand.

My Note:-

I believe this the telescope purchased by John G Allison in 1866 from Thomas Cooke and Sons when Mr Allison was living at 12 Cumberland Row Newcastle.

Monday 17 May 2021

Cooke for sale in Liverpool


Liverpool Daily Post Thursday 5th August 1875

Second hand astronomical telescope for sale by the late Mr Cooke of York- G S Wood (late Abraham & Co) Opticians 20 Lord Street Liverpool.

My note

In 1864 Abraham & Co had ordered a plain equatorial mounting on tripod for a 4.5 inch tube.

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 16 May 2021

Venus seen over Leeds


Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer Wednesday 15th January 1902

Venus visible in the Day Time

To the Editor of the Yorkshire Post.

Sir, Shakespeare’s ‘bright star of Venus’ forms so conspicuous an object in the evening south western sky that one led to inquire if she has been seen in the day time with the naked eye during her present effulgence. Perhaps some local astronomer has observed her through the atmosphere of ‘dim, laborious Leeds; Mr Whitemell, it may be.

To a great many people the fact that a star can be visible at noon day at all must border on the incredible, bit Venus is not infrequently detected, though ore by accident than by design to the un astronomical.

The late Mr Edwin Dunkin, who for nearly half a century was with the Royal Observatory at Greenwich wrote:- ‘ At the times of greatest brilliance the light Venus is very intense. A sensible shadow is often thrown upon a piece of white paper the interposition of the hand between it and Venus when the planet is in this position in its orbit. It can almost be plainly perceived by naked eye at such times in full sunlight, sometimes within an hour of noon. At one of these epochs in 1868, a correspondent of the The Times fancied that he had discovered a balloon shaped comet at noon day by means of a small telescope. The stranger, however turned out to tbe the planet Venus, which happened to be favourably situated for daylight observation in the spring of that year.

Sir Robert Ball, too refers the subject in his ‘Story of the Heavens’, thus:- ‘When Venus is at its brightest it easily can bes seen in broad daylight with the unaided eye. This striking spectacle proclaims in unmistakeable manner the unrivalled supremacy of Venus compared with the other planets and the fixed stars. Indeed, this time Venus is from 40 tom 60 times as bright as the brightest star in the northern heavens’. But of course a desire for star finding in the day time is to know where to look for your star.

J H Elgie

Leeds January 14th

Saturday 15 May 2021

Telescope lost in storm at Harrogate


Leeds Mercury Saturday 12th January 1839

On Monday last this most fashionable watering place was visited by the most destructive storm ever remembered by the oldest inhabitant. About two o’clock in the morning the wind being at that time in the south-west commenced blowing a perfect hurricane and continued up to noon.

The churches of high and low Harrogate, the Methodist Chapel and the three promenade room have all suffered amidst the general devastation.

A very valuable telescope was blown from the top of the observatory, and has not yet been found.

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."