Friday, 30 July 2021

That Cooke is still in Mauritius


On the afternoon of November 14th 1907 a transit of Mercury was observed from Mauritius using a 6 inch equatorial by Thomas Cooke & Sons York with a diagonal eyepiece power 80. I believe this was the same 6 inch Cooke that was used to observe the Transit of Venus in 1874.

The afternoon of the transit was cloudy but the Sun emerged from behind the clouds one minute before the internal contact at ingress. The Sun’s limb was boiling considerably; the definition of the limb was bad, but the spots at the centre and near the limb good.

Mercury appeared as a clear cut black disc, perfectly circular, with no white spot or fringe. No flashing across of cusps was detected.

Almost immediately after internal contact at ingress the Sun became obscured, and was not visible again until about 15 minutes before internal contact at egress. A careful watch was then made for any distortion, white spot, or disc, but none could be detected in the equatorial.

Thursday, 29 July 2021

A Cooke in Mauritius


Abridged from the Times January 9th 1875

The further news which we have received from the Mauritius is much more hopeful than that telegraphed by Lord Lindsay, for it includes an account of the doings of Mr Meldrum, the director of the Government Observatory in that island.

Mr Meldrum having only a few weeks before the transit of Venus been provided with a perfect telescope of six inches aperture by Thomas Cooke & Sons, York has been fortunate enough to obtain an observation of the ingress although both Lord Lindsay and the German party were prevented from doing this bu the cloudy state of the sky. But although Mr Meldrum obtained the two interior contact5s, clouds and haze were at intervals passing over the Sun, which, in fact, was obscuring during the greater part of the transit, passing showers of rain not being wanting to harass the observers.

At times beautiful definitions of the planet were observed, especially soon after the first interior contact. Then there was a long period of obscuration, after which, most fortunately, the Sun shone out for the second interior contact. A few minutes before the last interior contact the Sun was again obscured, wnad when the clouds passed away the transit was over.

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

A Cooke in Poland


In Warsaw in 1898 an observatory was established in an observatory a short distance north west of the university there. The observatory had originally belonged to the Polish amateur astronomer Jan Walery Jedrzejewicz (1835-1887) at Plonsk in central Poland.

Among the equipment in the observatory was a 5 inch Thomas Cooke & Sons telescope. Among the objects that Jedrzejewicz observed were double stars, sunspots, lunar occultations and the positions of 16 comets.

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Was a Cooke telescope used to discover the first Pup star?


In January 1862 Sirius B or the Pup was discovered by Alvan Clark in America testing an 18.5 inch refractor.

There is however a mystery because on January 10th 1856 Joseph Barclay discovered a small star within the blaze of light from alpha Canis Minoris or Procyon using a Thomas Cooke & Sons 7.5 inch telescope. Procyon is the small dog star,  The star was described as being of magnitude 10.5 and precedes Procyon by 3 or 4 seconds of time.

Normally the discovery of Procyon B is given as being made by J M Schaeberle using the 36 inch refractor at Lick Observatory in California in 1896.

However another twist in the story is that in 1860 Barclay replaced his 7.5 inch Cooke telescope with a 10 inch Cooke telescope which was used by Herman Romberg until 1863 and he states that he also observed this companion star to Procyon.

So was a Cooke telescope used to discover Procyon B? 

Monday, 26 July 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.

The Travels of a 9 inch Cooke Telescope


In the Carter Observatory in Wellington New Zealand is a 9.75 inch Thomas Cooke & Sons telescope that has a wonderful history.

It was originally made for Edward Crossley of Halifax, West Yorkshire in 1867 as a 9.3 inch telescope, it was used extensively by Crossley and his assistant Joseph Gledhill, with important observations of Mars and Jupiter being made. The 9.3 inch was also used in double star measurements and lead to be of the most important early catalogues on double stars by Crossley, Gledhill and James Wilson of Rugby.

The 9.3 inch Cooke in Halifax

In 1896 a new photo visual lens was place in the telescope tube, it was slightly small at 9 inches. On the death of Crossley in 1905 and the retirement of Gledhill the telescope was sold to the Rev David Kennedy on the north island of New Zealand at Meeanee, where an observatory was opened in 1907.

By 1924 the telescope had been sold again to the Wellington City Council and was installed in a tin shed rather than a proper observatory due to a lack of money.

However a local farmer and business man Charles Rooking Carter left in his will in 1896 a sum of £2240 to build an observatory. The observatory was built in Wellington and opened in December 1941, however due to the war very little happened until 1945.

Since then the Cooke telescope has been extensively used and was retired from research work in 1971. In 1975 it was discovered that the chemicals inside the lens were unstable and over time would damage the lens. In 2001 a new lens this time 9.75 inches was installed.

The 9.75 inch Cooke in Wellington

Today the telescope is still used for public open evenings and is a testament to the telescopes built be Thomas Cooke that a telescope he made in 1867 is still working today.

Sunday, 25 July 2021

The Atkinson Observatory Cooke Telescope


Arthur Samuel Atkinson was born in Hurworth, Durham in 1833 and moved to New Zealand in 1853. He fought during the Taranaki war in 1860 and eventually he entered the legal profession but had a great love of astronomy.

In 1882 he was asked by the Royal Society of London to be an official observer of the Transit of Venus. To do this he obtained a 5 inch Thomas Cooke & Sons telescope which I believe he purchased second hand. He also used it to observe the total eclipse of the Sun in 1885.

A S Atkinison and the 5 inch Cooke

The telescope was housed in an observatory in Nelson which is on the south island of New Zealand and was originally called the Atkinson Observatory. In 1982 a newer building was opened and in 2008 the observatory was renamed the Cawthron Atkinson Observatory after the wealthy benefactor Thomas Cawthron.

The Cooke 5 inch telescope was officially retired from active use in 2017 and was placed in a new Cawthron Trust Institute building for people to look at. The Cooke was replaced by a celestron 14 inch telescope.

Friday, 23 July 2021

The oldest working telescope in Japan is a Cooke


With Japan in the news this month because of the Olympic Games, readers may be interested in a special link between Japan and Yorkshire to be found at the Kwasan Observatory which is part of Kyoto University.

One of the telescopes in the observatory has a lens 12 inches (30 cms) in diameter and was made by Thomas Cooke & Sons of York. The telescope was installed in 1929 and was originally used for observing the Moon and planets. Its research life is over now, but the telescope is still used for regular open evenings, allowing members of the public to see objects in the night sky.

This telescope, made in York over 90 years ago, is the oldest working telescope still in use in Japan.

Brian May and friends at the 12 inch Cooke in January 2020

Thursday, 22 July 2021

A Cooke in Corsica


During the early part of 1934 C V C Herbert made a series of observations of Venus from his small observatory at Carrosaccia, Corsica using a 4.5 inch Thomas Cooke & Sons telescope. Although only a small instrument the quality of the object glass and the steady atmosphere compensated for the small aperture.

During March, April and May 1934 Venus was observed on 28 days. No surface markings were however noticed. On March 12th the seeing was for a short time superlative.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

A Cooke in Sicily


In 1890 a new observatory at Catania in Sicily was opened, its main role was in the study of astrophysics. A 6 inch Thomas Cooke & Sons telescope was installed with photographic apparatus; Huggins apparatus for photographing the solar corona.

In 1892 regular observations of solar spots and prominences started. On April 23rd 1893 observations were made of the 1893 solar eclipse using the 6 inch Cooke

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

A Cooke in Poona, India


In a publication from The Maharaja Takhasingji Observatory, Poona, India stating that the Total Solar Eclipse of the Sun was successfully observed with a 6 inch Cooke triple- achromatic.

The eclipse was observed by Prof Naegamvala at Jeur in Western India who was director of the observatory there and I believe that the telescope used was made by Thomas Cooke himself, as it is indicated that when the observatory was opened in 1888, the telescope was described as being made by Cooke the elder.

Monday, 19 July 2021

A Cooke in Roorkee India


Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser

Friday 11th December 1874

Transit of Venus

This station (Roorkee) is in fact a contribution made by the Government of India at the suggestion of Colonel Tennant B.E, ( Bengal Engineers), who in and since 1865 has rendered valuable aid in the observations of many interesting astronomical phenomena visible in Indian territory, especially the total eclipse of 1868 and 1871.

The suggestion of Colonel Tennant was at once warmly taken up by the viceroy in conjunction with the home government with a view to their future use in subsequent inquiries. The instruments sent out by Colonel Strange, of the India Stores Department are of the utmost precession and delicacy.

The temporary observatory erected by Col. Tennant at Roorkee, the seat of the Indian Civil Engineering College at the foot of the Himalayas, now contain a refractor of 6 inch aperture made by T Cooke & Sons York.

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser

Saturday 12th December 1874

Colonel Tennant from Roorkee says that during the transit one hundred photographs of the planet had been taken.

Probably if nothing else had been done, this would have secured to England an honourable place in the record of investigations.

Sunday, 18 July 2021

The Kodailkanal Observatory in India and a Cooke


The Kodailkanal Solar Physics Observatory in southern India undertook much work studying the Sun. If possible it was photographed every day using the 6 inch Thomas Cooke &Sons telescope. On the same mounting is a small telescope used for projecting an 8 inch image on a chart on which can be marked the positions of the spots and faculae visible on the day of observation.

In a separate building was a Thomas Cooke & Sons 12 inch photovisual telescope. Which is fixed horizontally and is supplied with sunlight by an 18 inch siderostat. Between the siderostat mirror and the photovisual can be placed other object glasses, which can be used to form solar images for use with the large grating spectrograph, the collimator of which is fixed horizontally at right angles to the beam of light from the siderostat.

The 12 inch Cooke forms an image of the Sun 60 mm in diameter on the split plate of the spectroheliograph.

Friday, 16 July 2021

A large Solar Prominence seen with a Cooke in India


On February 18th 1908 Mr Evershed at the Solar Physics Observatory, Kodaikanal, South India using a 6 inch Thomas Cooke & Sons telescope took a series of photographs of a solar prominence. The remarkable appearance of this kind of prominence has seldom been recorded. 20 photographs were taken with 14 being reproduced here.

Visual observations were also made which indicated a moderately bright mass of prominences

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Cooke for sale in India


Civil and Military Gazette (Lahore) Saturday 3rd January 1891

For Sale, owner leaving India

An equatorial telescope of 6 inches aperture by T Cooke & Sons, York, driven by clockwork, with stellar and solar prisms and a lot of eyepieces.

Also the revolving roof or dome (16 feet in diameter) of sheet zinc on teak frame, covering the telescope.

H B Hederstedt

late chief engineer of the Oude and Rohilkund Railway, Lucknow

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

A Cooke in Calcutta


In 1903 Thomas Cooke & Sons of York supplied a 4.5 inch telescope to the Government Observatory in Calcutta, India. The head of the observatory was Mr Evershed, Attached to the telescope was a 5 inch Camera also supplied by Cookes.

The telescope was mounted on a Cooke iron pillar which were housed in a shed. This shed was mounted on wheels and rails that allowed it to be moved when the telescope was to be used.

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Comet Coggia observed with the Cooke 25 inch telescope


On July 12th 1874 Robert Newall and Norman Lockyer observed comet Coggia using the Thomas Cooke & Sons 25 inch telescope. The observations were made at Newall’s observatory at Gateshead. 

The 25 inch was at the time the largest telescope in the world.

Monday, 12 July 2021

Comet Viscara and a Cooke


The comet of 1901 was photographed by Captain P B Molesworth at the Tricomali observatory in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) on May 13th 1901 using a Cooke & Sons camera lens of 8.42 inch focal length.

The comet had three tails, two slightly diverging, separated by a dark streak; the third is peculiar, as it does not diverge from the nucleus but from a point just behind it. The comet is moving daily two degrees E N E and has caused quire a sensation among the locals.

Molesworth was using Klein’s Star Atlas to plot the course of the comet.


This is comet Viscara, which was discovered in Uruguay on April 12th 1901 as a naked eye comet and at its brightest it reached magnitude 1.0. This comet was a southern hemisphere object. It faded from naked eye view on May 20th but was visible in telescopes through until October 1901.

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, 11 July 2021

Egypt, Halley's comet and a Cooke


On January 24th, 25th, 27th and 28th 1910 Halley’s Comet was photographed by Mr Knox-Shaw at the Helwan observatory in Egypt using a 4 inch Thomas Cooke & Sons telescope. The photographs showed the twin tails and southerly secondary tail.

The Cooke telescope was attached to a 30 inch reflector that had been purchased in 1902, the reflector was made by A A Common.

Friday, 9 July 2021

Canadian Cookes and Jupiter


Attempts were made on May 22nd 1896 at several points across Canada to observe the occultation of a 9th magnitude star in Cancer by Jupiter.

At the Toronto Observatory Mr F L Blake using the Cooke 6 inch refractor found the planet was too low in the sky for first class seeing, although the night was clear.

Dr J C Donaldson of Fergus Ontario using a 3.25 inch Cooke & Sons refractor obtained a glimpse of the star, but the nearness to the horizon made observing very difficult.

It is not known if any other observers further to the west observed the occultation.

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Canadian Cooke


The University of Toronto’s David Dunlap observatory at Richmond Hill near Toronto, Canada today houses a 74 inch Grubb Parsons reflector that was installed in 1935. However there was a much older observatory in Toronto.

This was the Toronto Magnetic and Meteorological Observatory at the University of Toronto which housed a 6 inch Thomas Cooke & Sons telescope that was installed in 1880. The Cooke was used in particular for the study of sun spots in conjunction with magnetic measurements made at the observatory. I believe that the Cooke may have been used until around 1910.

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Moses Holden and the comet of 1840


Blackburn Standard Wednesday 4th March 1840


To the Editor of the Blackburn Standard.

Sir, —Will you have the goodness to insert in the Standard the following account of a comet which is now seen: it is written by Mr. Moses Holden, whose lectures many of your readers will remember, and appeared in the Preston papers of last Saturday:-

" A second Comet has appeared this year, although the month of February is not yet out. This second is very small, and can only be seen with a good telescope. I saw it on the 23rd, it was little above the girdle of Andromeda, and did not look half large as the Nebula in that girdle, nor half as large as Encke's Comet. Its movement for the week along the girdle of Andromeda, as it passes the stars, is as follows,

Feb 1840 29 28 27 26 25 24 23

o o o o o o o Comet.


Beta *       Mu* 

                                        0 Nebula

An equatorial telescope turned to right ascension, in time 1 hour and 15 minutes, and declination 35 deg, 5 min., will be near the place, and with a Comet eye-piece would soon find it this evening.

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Solar Eclipse seen in Soth Carolina


Sun (London) Tuesday 27th January 1835


—A total eclipse of the sun occurred in South Caroline on the 30th of November last. The observations were made by Mr. R. T. Paine, the distinguished American astronomer, who was induced to proceed from Boston, his place of residence, to Beaufort, in South Carolina, a distance of n early 1,000 miles, on purpose to witness the phenomenon. The telescope with which Mr. Paine made his observations was a four feet equatorial one, to which magnifying powers varying, from 40 to 75 were applied. Duration of total darkness 0 1m 19s .

Mr. Paine, in a letter to his friend Mr. J. J. Audubon, describing this phenomena, says — " I consider myself well repaid by the observations I was enabled to make for all the trouble and inconvenience attending my journey. The effect produced on all animals was very great, whilst the unearthly appearance, it produced on surrounding objects can never be forgotten. During the darkness the buzzards and the poultry were seen flying to their places of roosting, and the plants of the mimosa tribe closed their leaves. The only difference observable between this eclipse and the total one which occurred at Boston in June, 1806, was, that, on this occasion, when the sun was completely concealed from sight, the moon appeared to be sat' rounded by a beautiful effulgence, which in 1806 was not perceived. This halo could not, however, be discerned through a darkened glass. The following stars and planets were visible. Artanus, (Arcturus?) Lyra, Altair, Antares, Venus, and Mercury. The thermometer fell six degrees during the time of the sun's obscuration. No other total eclipse will occur in the United States during the present century.

Monday, 5 July 2021

Podcast: Astronomy in Yorkshire

 I have prepared a series of podcasts on Astronoy in Yorkshire which you can listen to via this  link.

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 in 1830


Cumberland Pacquet, and Ware's Whitehaven Advertiser Tuesday 25th May 1830

Comet in the Constellation Pegasus—This comet was first discovered by Mr Gambart, director of the observatory at Marseilles on the 21st April. Its position in the heavens was then right ascension 21h 10m north declination ?? 37 mins. Mr Gamhart intimated to the president of the Astronomical Society of London, James South Esq, that this interesting visitor had arrived within the view of the inhabitants of the earth; and he with his well known zeal for the improvement of astronomical science, immediately communicated the intelligence to individual astronomers and to the public generally, through the channel of newspapers. Mr South possesses one of the finest achromatic telescopes if not the best in the world ( the object glass of which alone cost we believe, a thousand guineas): it is no less than twenty feet in length: he also has a five feet equatorial telescope, with suitable circles divided by the masterly hand of Troughton;

Owing to the brightness of the Moon the image the image of the comet was hardly bright enough in the equatorial telescope to bear the illumination of the micrometer wires; hence the determination of its R A was liable to some uncertainty; but its declination was observed with more accuracy. On the moon’s setting the comet became more distinct, and its nucleus was well terminated. It then could be dissected by the micrometer wire without difficulty. In the large telescope the nucleus was well defined, with powers 130 and 346 and was more satisfactorily shown than than any Mr South had seen.

In a night glass of four inches aperture, he says it appeared not unlike a school master’s well used birch. He does not say that it had been visible to the unassisted eye; but for several days past, the state of the atmosphere has not admitted of any observations on the phenomenon.

My Note

Although first seen from Europe by Mr Gambart at Marseilles it had previously been seen by Mr Fallows at the Cape of Good Hope and by others from March 17th

Sunday, 4 July 2021

Sun Spot seen from Yorkshire


Nature, July 20th 1871

Sun spot

While watching the Sun set over the hills to the west of Halifax, on the evening of July 17th 1871, my attention was called to an intensely black spot upon its southern hemisphere, almost vertically below the centre of the disc, which was visible to the naked eye. I may add that the evening was fine, but a thin mist was rising from the valleys, and that it was about five minutes before the Sun touched the horizon that the spot was first seen.

Thomas Perkins

Friday, 2 July 2021

Observatory saved from fire


Cheltenham Chronicle Saturday 15th April 1916

Disastrous fire in Cheltenham, considerable damage done to Thirlestaine Hall

Monday 10th April 1916

THE EXTENT OF THE DAMAGE The structure was insured for £10,500, an! Mr. Player roughly estimates that replace the structural damage will cost about £4000. The contents the house were insured £10,000, and although an estimate the damage is difficult until the valuers have been carefully through the rooms, it will probably work out at something like £2,500 . Thast such an estimate is justified may judged by the fact that the contents of the best rooms, almost entirely destroyed were down in the inventory for £450 and £350 respectively.

Mr John Player purchased the house in 1909 and built an observatory with a rounded dome of which was very conspicuous from many parts of the town.

It was due to the existence of the observatory that the fire was discovered a membr pf the family went uo to the observatory which commands a complete survey of the broad expanse of roof above the main block of the building. From the windows of the observatory the presence of the fire was quickly detected.

The saving of the observatory was a fine piece work by fire brigade, and not unattended with danger for the men had to go through a small window to get to the outside, and the danger of them getting cut of by fire was at one time imaginary, for the floor the room in which the window is situated beginning to smoke it was torn up in places and found burning strongly beneath. The hose was consequently turned on it, and the burning beams beneath extinguished. The observatory itself a structure would have burnt like a matchbox. In it were instruments valued at least at £500. including a 3-inch transit telescope, a 6 inch equatorial telescope, and a sidereal clock, none of which were in the insurance inventory!

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Comet Gale


Derby Daily Telegraph Tuesday 15th October 1912

Gale’s Comet has been well seen with the 6in. equatorial at Mr. F. J. Hanbury's Observatory, Brockhurst, East Grinstead, during the past week. The Superintendent, however, says in a letter to the Times that it is somewhat north of its predicted place in the ephemeris and the difference is on the increase amounting to nearly one degree last night. It is rising rapidly in declination and appears be brightening, also; when first seen it was estimated about fifth magnitude but now nearer the fourth. It, was really a fine object last night, being found in twilight. On a dark sky it had an extensive coma, with a large bright nucleus and a tail at least half degree length. It was very plain in the finder, and was about south of Alpha Serpentis. sighting along the telescope it was seen with the naked eye, as a little misty spot just below the bright star. It is evidently proving to be a more interesting object than was at first anticipated, and seems likely to remain in view for some little time.