Sunday, 31 October 2021

The Crossley Reflector, the Trumpler Cluster Catalogue and Halifax


Robert Trumpler 1886-1955 photographed nearly all the bright open clusters about 50 in number with the slit less quartz spectrograph attached to the Crossley Telescope with exposures of from 5 to 7 hours. This was done during 1925-1926. This work would be used in the Trumpler Catalogue of clusters which was published in 1930. This catalogue is still used today by astronomers.

The Crossley Telescope was owned by Edward Crossley in Halifax, Yorkshire from 1885 until 1896, however the skies above Halifax meant that the telescope could not be used to best effect. In 1896 it was donated to the Lick Observatory in California where it would be used in many pioneering projects early in the 20th century.

The slit less spectrograph was designed and constructed by C Donald Shane 1895-1983 while he was assistant professor of maths and astronomy at the university of California for the purpose of applying it to the study of nebulae.

Saturday, 30 October 2021

A Cooke in Camden Square


On September 20th 1865 John Lampray of Camden Square London purchased a 2.25 inch OG in its cell with a focal length of 45 inches From Thomas Cooke and Sons. He later purchased a larger 4.5 inch Cooke and Sons telescope.

My next reference to him comes in 1884 when the 4.5 inch together with its observatory was advertised for sale. The observatory was described as being in an excellent condition with a revolving dome covered in zinc with a sliding shutter.

I do not know if the telescope and observatory were being sold due to the death of John Lampray or whether he was unable to use the telescope. Astronomers in London might know.

Friday, 29 October 2021

A Cooke in Midlothian


Thomas Bauchope 1823-1889 was born at Brucefield in Midlothian, he succeeded his father as factor or property manager on several estates in Midlothian. His main leisure interest was in the sciences and in particular astronomy.

He had an observatory in his garden with a 4 inch Cooke telescope. His telescope is listed as a Cooke rather than a Cooke and Sons which suggests that the telescope is a pre 1857 model. He contributed a series of articles on astronomy to a local paper. He was known to try to encourage working class people to take an interest in either astronomy or another science.

Thomas Bauchope died on December 8th 1889 and his telescope was offered for sale at £70 at today’s price that would be just over £9,000!!!

Thursday, 28 October 2021

Florence Taylor and the Leeds Astronomical Society


Florence Taylor 1865 – 1932 was born in Leeds the daughter of a wealthy iron foundry owner. There is little known about her early life but we assume that she was highly educated coming as she did from a well off family.

We do know that she joined the Leeds Astronomical Society in 1895, the Leeds AS was the oldest astronomical society in the country originally being formed in 1859 and then reformed on a more permanent basis in1890. She was the first women to present a lecture to the Leeds AS the topic was the woman astronomer Mary Somerville.

In 1898 she married Dr Hildred a Yorkshire born farmer and moved to America firstly living in in Minnesota, and then California. I have little information on what she did while in America but she certainly still had a great interest in astronomy.

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

John Chamber of Leeds and the Length of the Year


John Chamber 1546-1604 was born at Swillington near Leeds little is known of his early life but he was a fellow of Merton College, Oxford where he lectured on astronomy, with his friend Henry Savile, he would later go to Eton College. He became a clergyman of the Church of England and an author, especially on astronomy and astrology. He worked with Savile on the proposed introduction date of the Gregorian calendar. Chamber wrote several works where he claimed that astrology had many technical faults and only stupid people would rely on it. This caused him many problems because astrology was still regarded as a serious science at the time. In fact George Carleton bishop of Chichester had to defend his name after his death because the works he wrote regarding astrology were causing such an offence to astrologers.

He became a canon at St George’s Chapel, Windsor where he was entombed when he died in 1604.

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Tuesday, 26 October 2021

A 12 inch Cooke in Surrey and Spectra


Sir Henry Thompson at his observatory at Hurst Side, West Molesey, Surrey which houses a 12 inch Thomas Cook and Sons of York telescope has been observing the spectra of nebula. The observatory was established here in April 1888.

In 1888 using the 12 inch Cooke he observed the nebula in Orion, between September and December, the Andromeda nebula in October and again in December. He had earlier in the year observed the nebula in Lyra.

Monday, 25 October 2021

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.

Henry Briggs, Halifax and Logarithms


Think of maths lessons at school think of Logarithms then think of Henry Briggs 1561-1631, if you didn’t like log tables he would be the man to blame and he was a Yorkshire man. Although he didn’t invent the logarithm he made them more useable in the scientific community. He was also a damn good astronomer!

Born at Warleywood near Halifax, he would become a mathematical astronomer; Briggs went to a local grammar school before going on to St John’s College Cambridge in 1577. During the 1590s he was working closely with the mathematician and map maker Edward Wright who in the 1580s had been ordered by Elizabeth I to go with an expedition to attack the Portuguese Azores to carry out navigational studies, he also helped Emery Molyneux to produce the first celestial globes in England in 1593. Briggs and Wright who came from Norfolk collaborated with their astronomical studies; we know their observations included those of the Sun and his was very interested in the study of eclipses which took up much of his time. He was also a great believer in the idea of Copernicus that the Sun was at the centre of the solar system and not the Earth.

Briggs was also fortunate enough to obtain a copy in English of one of the most important books in the history of astronomy shortly after it was published. Don’t forget most books at this time will be written in Latin. Astronomia Nova or New Astronomy was written by Johann Kepler who for ten years had observed the path of Mars around the sky and his observations confirmed that the path of Mars across the sky only worked if the Sun was at the centre.

Astronomers use globes and maps with their studies today, but the first person from Yorkshire to have one was Henry Briggs in the early 1590s!

And it is amazing to think that it was with his work with Wright that Briggs met the astronomer Thomas Harriot who is now credited as the first astronomer to draw an astronomical object after viewing it through a telescope: he drew a map of the Moon on 26 July 1609, this was several months before Galileo.

In an age where astrology was an important topic for most men of learning, Briggs strongly opposed it however that did not stop him working with astrologers for example when in 1603 there was a conjunction of the planets Saturn and Jupiter. A conjunction of planets occurs when two or more planets appear to be very close to each other in the sky. This is of course just a line of sight effect because the planets are all many millions of miles apart from each other. They tried to put an astrological interpretation but had observed the event so the astronomical observations they made were very useful.

An event then occurred for which Briggs is probably better known. In 1616 he visited John Napier at Edinburgh who had invented the Logarithm in order to discuss some changes he wanted to make; he proposed that the original logarithms that Napier had introduced should be changed into common (base 10) logarithms, which are sometimes known as Briggsian logarithms in his honour.

The common logarithms were more useful and a great aid to Briggs when he published his works on navigation, astronomy, and mathematics. In fact it was Briggs who was the man most responsible for scientists' acceptance of logarithms.

In 1596, he became first professor of Geometry in the recently founded Gresham College, London; where he taught geometry, astronomy and navigation. He would lecture there for nearly 23 years, in 1619 he was appointed Savilian professor of geometry at Oxford.

There is even a little bit of Yorkshire on the Moon! Henry Briggs has a crater on the Moon named after him; Briggs is located in the western part of the Oceanus Procellarum or Ocean of Storms. He died on January 26th 1631 is in the top 25 astronomy podcasts on the web

Sunday, 24 October 2021

The Savalian Professor of Astronomy and Halifax


One of the most prestigious positions in astronomy today is to be the Savilian Professor of Astronomy at the University of Oxford. You have probably guessed it, it was a Yorkshire man who established that position, Sir Henry Savile November 1549 – 1622. He was born at Bradley, near Halifax.

He was an English scholar, Warden of Merton College, Oxford, and Provost or chairman of the governing body of Eton College. He was also a Member of Parliament. In 1583 Henry Savile together with John Chamber and Thomas Digges were asked to sit on a commission to consider whether England should adopt the Gregorian calendar, as proposed by John Dee.

The Gregorian calendar had been introduced into catholic Europe in 1582 when ten years were lost but in protestant countries such as Britain it would not be adopted until 1752. This meant that when the Gregorian calendar was eventually introduced in Britain and its colonies much later than most of Europe the error  had increased so much that to replace the Julian calendar eleven days were lost. If you was living anywhere in Britain  in 1752, Wednesday September 2nd was followed by Thursday 14th September!

Savile was one of the scholars who would translate the New Testament from Greek into English.

In 1604 Savile was knighted and in 1619 he established at the university of Oxford the position of Savilian Professor of Astronomy. It has to be filled by a scholar of distinction, with an outstanding teaching, research and publication record.

Saturday, 23 October 2021

Captain Scott, the South Pole and a Cooke


Most people know of the story of Captain Scott and his expedition trying to become the first people to reach the south pole on Antarctica during the summer of 1911/1912. Unfortunately when he arrived he discovered that he had been beaten by the Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen. 

Amundsen reached the south pole on the 14th December 1911, while Scott reached the south pole on January 17th 1912. Sadly on the return journey Scott and his team perished in the very cold conditions.

However what is perhaps less well know is that Captain Scott and his team took a light weight theodolite specially made by Thomas Cooke of York with him the mark the position of the south pole. It was one of only 6 of these special theodolites made by Cooke’s for the expedition.

When the rescue team found the bodies of Scott and his team in their tent they also found the Cooke theodolite that was used by Scott to mark the south pole.

This instrument was on display at the physics department at the University of York, however I cannot say if it is still there today.

Friday, 22 October 2021

John Field the proto Copernican of Yorkshire


John Field 1527-1587 was born in Ardsley to the SW of Leeds in the West Riding, an astronomer who seems to be missed off many people’s radar. His describes himself as being a farmer, and sometimes student in the mathematic sciences. Yet this farmer would become a trail blazer and was the first person to publish an ephemeris or movements of the stars and planets in England that was based on the Copernican theory. John Field was known as the proto Copernican of England.

The Copernican theory was put forward by Nicolas Copernicus a Polish canon and astronomer who said that the Sun was at the centre of the solar system and not the Earth. The idea of the Earth centred system had been proposed by Aristotle around 350 BCE. This idea had been promoted by the church through monasteries.

As a young boy John Field went to Woodkirk Priory which was a cell of the Augustine monastery at Nostell Priory near Wakefield. Woodkirk would be closed during the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1539. This is almost certainly where his mathematical talents were first seen.

Amazingly he became astronomer/astrologer of the young Princess Elizabeth Tudor; an associate and friend of John Dee who was astronomer/astrologer of Queen Mary Tudor. Dee would later become astronomer/astrologer to Queen Elizabeth.

In 1554 Following the failure of Wyatt's rebellion, a popular uprising in England over the concern of Queen Mary to marry Philip of Spain, Queen Mary imprisoned Princess Elizabeth in the Tower of London and later moved her to Woodstock under house arrest. In 1555 the Privy Council also ordered the arrest of astrologers John Field and John Dee over charges of "endeavouring by enchantmentes to destroy Queen Mary" in the matter of her failure to produce an heir; and bewitching children; etc. They were jailed, it was here that the young princess Elizabeth met John Dee and John Field. Although it was in April 1555 that Elizabeth was released Field and Dee were not released until Christmas 1556. It was probably during their imprisonment as they had little else to do that the two friends had worked on their recognition and ideas of the Sun-centric planetary system as propounded by Nicholas Copernicus. The following year 1557 John Field published his work based on the Copernican system, with a preface by John Dee. The book is an almanac of star and planet positions.

During 1558 John Field of Ardsley was granted a coat arms in recognition for his work in navigation. The crest has the slogan SEMPER IN MOTU which translates to “Always in Motion” for his work on the shifting positions of the Sun, Moon and Stars.

In November 1558 Queen Mary was executed and her half sister became Queen Elizabeth the first. John Dee as court astrologer had to set the date for the coronation. Maybe he tired of court life and wanted to return to his roots in Yorkshire. Following on after the death of his father, John Field returned to Yorkshire and to Ardsley to go back to farming.

It is worth noting that at this time astrologers were often mathematical astronomers and the two subjects were very similar to each other. However at this period in time astrologers would produce almanacs with very little science value while astronomers would produce a more scientific version. However this story does show that it could be dangerous to be an astrologer in the 1550s.

Between 1543 when Copernicus wrote his book On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres and 1600 there were less than a dozen astronomers or scientists all with very well-known names including Thomas Digges and Thomas Hariot in England; Giordano Bruno and Galileo Galilei in Italy; and Johannes Kepler in Germany who supported these new ideas, and yet there is not a mention of John Field. He not only agreed with Copernicus he was the first person to write about those ideas in England so should be included on any distinguished list of astronomers who supported the Copernican view of the solar system.

Here is another example of a Yorkshire man who made a massive contribution to astronomy , yet is hardly know.

John Field died in 1587 and is buried at the church of St Michael’s with St Gabriel’s in East Ardsley near Wakefield. It is here that there is a plaque dedicated to John Field on the wall of the porch entrance of the church.

The plaque reads ‘Beneath this porch lies John Field 1520-1587 he was the first astronomer in this country to make known the discoveries of Copernicus’ 

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Thursday, 21 October 2021

The Milky Way, Watling Street and a Yorkshire Monk


Following the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066 there was a period during the next 200 years of a series of building not only building castles but also Abbeys and Monasteries. In Yorkshire alone there were over a dozen built, and these were built of stone and replaced the wooden Anglo Saxon structures. They did have one thing in common though; they had extensive libraries, which allowed them to become great places of learning, and as we all know knowledge is power.

One chronicler who we do know off and came from Yorkshire was Roger of Hoveden or Howden in the East Riding of |Yorkshire, we believe he dies around the year 1201, among the many things he did was around the year 1192 was to write a general history of England from the year 732.

He does make an interesting reference to the Milky Way, Roger says that the Anglo Saxon name was Waetlinga Straet or the paths of the Waetlings, these were giant sons of King Waetla who were the legendary founders of the path. It is possible that Waetla was one of the Saxon mythical heroes. However remember that if we are going back even further in time than the Saxons it would have been based on Celtic mythology.

 We all know that the Romans constructed Watling Street which ran from Kent to Shropshire for over two hundred and fifty miles. The Milky Way in the sky looks slightly curved, Watling Street is slightly curved, and could the Romans be using the Celtic/Saxon mythology and placing the Milky Way on the ground in England?

 It’s what a Yorkshire monk is suggesting!

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Alcuin, Charlemagne, Constellations and York


One of the greatest Saxon scholars, Alcuin (735-804) was born in Northumbria possibly in York itself in 735 , he would go on to become one of the best sources of information during the latter part of the eighth century. The young Alcuin went to the cathedral church school of York during the golden age of Archbishop Ecgbert who had been a disciple of the Venerable Bede. Here Alcuin became a monk and teacher. Within the monastic world he was able to gain access to magnificent libraries, he wrote educational manuals and copied classical texts including those of the great scientists of Greece, it was here that Alcuin became aware of was astronomy.

Don’t forget monasteries were the centre of learning at this time.

In 781 when he was returning from a visit to Rome he met with the King of the Franks, better known as Charlemagne who would unite most of Western Europe the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire in the west, and apart from building a massive empire Charlemagne was also very interested in astronomy.

At the Charlemagne’s invitation, Alcuin joined the royal court in 781, and became one of the king’s chief advisers on religious and educational matters. Alcuin was made head of the palace school at Aachen, which was attended by members of the royal court and the sons of noble families, and he established a great library there.

Charlemagne was fascinated by the movements of the stars and studied them carefully with the help of Alcuin and it was probably this work that produced some wonderful images of the constellations the Leiden Aratea this were copies of images of the constellations that had been produced by the Greek poet Aratus 310 BCE- 240 BCE whose work described the constellations and other celestial phenomena. The images are based on 38 drawings.


Alcuin would have been aware of this work and possible encouraged Charlemagne to get them re produced, but he did not live to see the work completed dying on 19th May 804 CE. The constellations themselves were produced probably near Aachen around 816 CE and even Charlemagne never saw this work being completed as he died in 814 CE.

If it had not been for Alcuin setting up the great library at Aachen the wonderful Leiden Aratea constellations images would probably never have been reproduced and could possibly have been lost for ever.

One of the colleges at the University of York is named Alcuin College.

You can also follow me on my podcasts at which according to  is now in the 25 top astronomy podcasts on the web

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

The Devils Arrows


We stay with pre historic sites but move from features in the earth to standing stones. Keeping the North Yorkshire theme we travel to a site near Boroughbridge in the Harrogate district. We move forward in time to about 2,000 BCE to discover the Devils Arrows a line of three huge stones sometimes called ‘the three sisters’ there are suggestions that originally there were four stones.

The stones which are made from millstone grit which is believed to have been quarried at Knaresborough which is around seven miles away and then dragged to their present positions. The stones each weigh around 25 tons so moving them using the technology available 4,000 years ago was no mean feat.

The stones that are still standing are aligned southeast to northwest and they form a line 374 metres long. The stones are between five to six metres high and are sunk into the ground to a depth of about 1.5 metres. The Devils Arrows today are actually less than 200 metres from the A1M motorway.

The name the Devils Arrows only dates back to the 1700s when according to legend the devil threw the stones at the next town which is Aldborough however much to the annoyance of the devil the stones fell short of their intended target and landed near Boroughbridge instead! I am not sure what a town in Yorkshire did to get the devil so annoyed?

As with many of these standing stones across the country there almost certainly was an astronomical connection. I am not sure if anybody is certain just what the connection might be. It certainly is not as clear cut as with the Thornborough Henges and the link with Orion. The fact that they align southeast to northwest suggests a possible link with the Sun and Moon. If as astro-archaeologists believe that there were originally four stones at this site it could suggest a connection with the position of the Sun and Moon during the four seasons during the course of the year. I am afraid that as with many of the stone circles and standing stones we will probably never know for certain.

The Devils Arrows like Thornborogh Henges are also listed as Scheduled Ancient Monuments.

Monday, 18 October 2021

Thornborough Henges


We now travel back in time not this time thousands of years to around 3,500 BCE (Before Christian Era) to discover one of the most important ancient sites in Britain, this is the Thornborough Henges. They are located near the village of Thornborough which is in the Hambleton district of North Yorkshire near to Bedale. The henges consist of a series of three circular mounds with ditches and banks that were probably in use for over a thousand years. This site is often referred to as the ‘Stonehenge of the North’.

Thornborough Henges

Thornborough Henge is the world’s only triple henge with the length of the three circles covering a distance of about one mile. The henges are aligned northwest to southeast, and laid out at approximately 550m apart. All are of similar size and shape, have a diameter between 240 and 275 metres, and stand some three meters in height. We cannot be sure why it was built some astro archaeologists think that Thornborough may have been a pilgrimage centre where people sought spiritual salvation and that it served an economic and social needs however there does appears to be a definite astronomical connection.

The Thornborough Henges align with one of the most famous star patterns in the sky, Orion’s Belt. The henges do not form a straight line but instead were intentionally shaped like a ‘dog leg’ to reflect the shape that the stars of Orion’s belt form in the sky. The constellation of Orion is very well known and is one of the two main signposts in the sky which help astronomers to find their way around while learning the positions of the stars in the night sky. The other is the Plough or Big Dipper as the Americans prefer to call it. The Plough is part of the constellation of Ursa Major the Great Bear, and while the Plough is visible all year around while in Britain Orion can only be seen in the winter sky.

Orion is one of 88 constellations recognised today be astronomers today. These are just like giant pictures in the sky and if you can find them it is possible to start reading the stories they are telling us. Of these 48 were designed by the Greeks and therefore by convention we tend to use the Greek myth and legends attached to them. Most other civilisations had their own versions of the ones we use here in the west. The other 40 constellations were added from the sixteenth century onwards by astronomers filling in the gaps between the main star groups in the northern hemisphere. When European explorers travelled into the southern hemisphere they saw stars that cannot be seen in Europe so created a series of constellation in the southern sky. Many of these are depictions of what were at the time newly invented scientific instruments. This explains why in the southern hemisphere we see constellations such as Telescopium the Telescope and Microscopium the Microscope. The vast majority of these modern constellations both in the northern and southern hemispheres are comprised of faint and obscure stars.

Orion on the other hand is a magnificent constellations easily recognised by four bright stars that form a large rectangle in the sky inside which are the three stars that form Orion’s Belt. The top left hand star of the rectangle is the famous red star Betelgeux which is often called Beetlejuice! As we look at the belt stars from left to right they are Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. The stars names may seem a little different to us this is because they are Arabic. When we translate the stars of Orion’s belt into English we discover that Alnitak means The Girdle, Alnilam the String of Pearls and Mintaka is the Belt.

This same astronomical alignment can be found in the great pyramids in Egypt, but the Thonrborough Henges are about 1,000 years earlier than the Egyptian pyramids. This could be the first known monument to align with the constellation of Orion. Was this co- incidence that the people of Yorkshire and those in Egypt created the same pattern on the ground or maybe people travelled around the world thousands of years ago exchanging thoughts, ideas and customs?

The structures of the henges were aligned so its western end pointed towards the mid-winter setting of Orion which also meant that the eastern end aligned towards the midsummer solstice.

Today we talk about light pollution and how difficult it is for people who live in cities to see the stars properly. We can be certain that the night skies were much darker when the henges were constructed over 5,000 years ago, there would be no light pollution at all. Today Orion is still an amazingly wonderful constellation to look at but with darker skies it must have looked even more impressive and this perhaps is one of the reasons why they had such a fascination for this one particular group of stars.

Today, all three of the Thornborough Henges, as well as the land connecting them together, are listed as Scheduled Ancient Monuments.

Saturday, 16 October 2021

Aurora seen over Liverpool in 1872


On November 10th 1872 Samuel Barber observed aurora over Liverpool at 11.20 pm. He described it was of the usual form, ruddy and radiating from a horizontal band of light in the north.

It was followed by a week of much colder weather than had preceded it.

Friday, 15 October 2021

Sir William Keith Murray and his Cooke


On December 11th 1858 Sir William Keith Murray (1801-1861) of Ochertyre near Crieff in Scotland purchased a 9 inch telescope from Thomas Cooke of York. The telescope was massive and had a tube that was 13 feet long and was mounted on a stone pier 9 feet and 3 inches tall. Up until this point in time it was the largest telescope that Cooke had constructed and it was also at the time the largest refractor in Scotland.

The weather conditions were often poor at the location of the observatory and Murray was only able to use the Cooke for a short period before his death in 1861. Following his death the telescope was offered for sale unfortunately with no initial interest.

In 1863 a number of gentlemen raised £1,120 to purchase the telescope for the observatory at Glasgow University. It was sited at the Horselethill Observatory and used there until 1939 when the building was demolished. The 9 inch was always referred to as the 9 inch Ochertyre Telescope.

Following the demolition of the Horselethill Observatory a new student observatory was built in the University Gardens to house the 9 in Cooke. This was closed in 1969 after which I have no idea what happened to the 9 inch Cooke Ochtertyre Telescope.

Thursday, 14 October 2021

The Franklin Adams Charts

Nature April 10th 1913 

John Franklin Adams photographed the entire night sky between 1904 and 1909 from Godalming in Surrey for the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere from South Africa using a 10 inch Cooke camera and two 6 inch Cooke cameras.

In 1913 the Royal Astronomical Society undertook to publish a small number of the Franklin Adams Charts. The 206 photographic plates covered the entire sky. Each plate covered an area 15 degrees by 15 degrees.

The reproductions were on bromide paper 15 inches by 12 inches with the plate area being 11inches by 11 inches. The cost of each set will be 10 guineas, in 2021 prices this would be over £1,200!!

It is hoped that a sufficient number of subscribers will be enlisted to help to defray the cost of such an expensive undertaking. It is hoped that they will be ready in 1914.

Today over 100 years after these charts were produced these Franklin Adams Charts are still in use by astronomers due to their quality and their historical reference to the night sky over 100 years ago.

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

John Joynson, Liverpool, delta 3 Tau and a Cooke


On November 9th 1870 John Joynson of Waterloo in Liverpool observed an occultation of delta 3 Tauri. Delta 3 is one of the members of the Hyades cluster of stars that are near to Aldebaran in Taurus. Joynson was using a 6 inch Cooke telescope.

An occultation occurs when the Moon passes in front of a star blocking out the light from the star. Very occasionally a planet will pass in front of a star. 

According to Joynson the Moon passed over this star and the disappearance took place at 11 hours, 19 minutes and 11.3 seconds. The star reappeared at 12 hours 16 minutes and 50.7 seconds. The observations were considered very satisfactory.

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Thomas Cook is allowed to Vote


Thomas Cook optician of Stonegate in York was objected to being able to vote in the general election of 1837 by a Mr Graham because he believed that Mr Cook was not a £10 Freeholder. At this time unless you owned a freehold property to the value of £10 you were unable to vote.

However on checking it was found that Mr Cook had a previous rating that showed he was a £10 Free holder owning his opticians shop in Stonegate and was therefore allowed to vote.

The 1837 election was won by the Viscount Melbourne. I do not know which way Thomas Cook voted.

 Also note that his name is spelled without an ‘e’, he went from Thomas Cook to Thomas Cooke sometime in the early 1840s.

Monday, 11 October 2021

Cooke 25 inch Tested


On November 5th 1867 the 25 inch object glass which had been so long in the making by Thomas Cooke of York was completed. 

This was the largest object glass to that date. It was tested on the double star gamma 2 Andromeda and the stars were seen most distinctly divided and with the spurious disks of the three stars of the system perfectly round.

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.

Friday, 8 October 2021

RC Johnson, comet Perine and a Cooke


On October 2nd 1902 Richard Cowan Johnson observed from Liverpool comet Perrine using his 4.5 inch Cooke refractor. The comet was discovered by Charles Dillon Perrine at the Lick Observatory using the 12 inch refractor on August 31st 1902.

I am not sure when R C Johnson obtained his 4.5 inch Cooke telescope but in May 1865 he Purchased a 2 inch Cooke on a brass mounting.

RC Johnson was President of the Liverpool Astronomical Society from 1882-1884.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Leeds A S visit Cookes in York


On Saturday afternoon October 9th 1920 members of the Leeds Astronomical Society of which Mr David Booth is president and others visited the works of Messrs Cooke and Sons Ltd Bishophill, York where an interesting and instructive time was spent.

During their tour around the works they saw how lens are ground down and polished and how various instruments are used and adjusted.

Among the other things pointed out were various parts of the 18 inch telescope for Brazil. In the show room there were various telescopes including one made by Mr Cooke in 1850.

The visitors were surprised to find that in York there were such large and extensive works equipped with the various modern and accurate machines capable of making the most precise scientific instruments for the exacting demands of today.

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Drawings made using a Cooke in Descriptive Astronomy by Chambers


In the classic handbook of Descriptive Astronomy by G F Chanbers there are drawings from October 1865 showing a Great Sun Spot. these were drawn by the astronomer Frederick Brodie.

Frederick Brodie had an observatory at Uckfield in Sussex where he had an 8.5 inch Cooke. He later moved to the Isle of Wight taking his Observatory and Cooke telescope with him.

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

A Cooke sees Venus in Day light


J F Barber from Stanton by Dale in Nottingham reported on October 22nd 1863 that on turning my 6 inch Cooke telescope upon Venus I was much surprised to see almost the whole of the unilluminated disc of the planet; it was so striking I appearance, that I thought it must be the resemblance of the Moon, which made me fancy that I could see the unilluminated portion. 

My sister in law, whom I called to witness the planet, but without telling her what to look for, said she instantly saw the whole disc. The atmosphere was beautifully clear, but still the planet was so far past conjunction, that I should scarcely have imagined the phenomena would be visible.

Monday, 4 October 2021

Joseph Baxendell and T Bootis


On April 10th and 11th 1860 Joseph Baxendell at Mr Worthington’s observatory at Crumpsall Old Hall in Manchester using a 5 inch refractor, made the only definite observations of this enigmatic object. I do not know if this instrument was a Cooke or not.

He saw the nova at magnitude 9.75, by April 22nd it had fallen to magnitude 12.8, the following night it could not be seen with Mr Worthington’s 13 inch reflector.

Various other astronomers including Friederich Winnecke, Edward Pickering, Ernest Harding and Ernst Zinner searched for the star but without success.

Granting the reality of this object, the nova appears to have had an amplitude of at least 7 magnitudes, and an unusually rapid decline of about a magnitude in 4 days.

The star is referred to in Burnham's Celestial Handbook where it is suggested that observers keep an eye on this part of the sky.

This strange star was given the designation of T Bootes

Sunday, 3 October 2021

A Cooke at Eton


In 1870 some of the masters at Eton School decided that they would provide a telescope. They chose a 5.9 in Thomas Cookie & Sons Refractor. The observatory was also made by Cookes. The observatory was erected on the roof of the western tower of the New Schools. It is square and surmounted by a revolving dome.

Although a telescope on a roof will never be completely free from vibration it is reduced to a minimum by supporting the telescope on two massive trussed iron girders stretching across the observatory. The floor is supported quite independently.

The telescope which was up the normal Cooke standards was supplied with the new Cooke clockwork driving system which was designed by the late Thomas Cooke.

The report of the Eton telescope was supplied by the science master H G Madan who was the brother of Falconer Madan who was himself the grandfather of Venetia Burney who suggested the name Pluto for that newly discovered planet.

I believe that the Eton telescope is still in use today in a different observatory located next to Eton Golf Course and is used by the Herschel Astronomical Society.

Saturday, 2 October 2021

Popular author had a Cooke


George Frederick Chambers was born in 1841. G F Chambers was a barrister and astronomer. He became very well known due to the number of books on astronomy that he wrote. His first book was ‘A Handbook of Descriptive and practical Astronomy’.

His most popular books were a series of introductions to astronomy. The Story of the Solar System, The Story the Star, The Story of Eclipses, and The Story of Comets. He also produced a revised version of ‘A Cycle of Celestial Objects’ that was originally written by Admiral W H Smyth.

G F Chambers died on May 24th 1915

In 1865 he purchased a 4 inch telescope from Thomas Cooke of York.

Friday, 1 October 2021

Halley's Comet, Crossley's Cooke and New Zealand


Edward Crossley was a wealthy industrialist who owned the Crossley Carpet Mill in Halifax, West Yorkshire, in April 1867 he purchased a 9.3 inch telescope from Thomas Cooke of York, the telescope would be used for over 30 years in Halifax, upon Crossley’s death in 1905 the telescope was brought by the Rev. David Kennedy in New Zealand, it was placed in an observatory at Meeanee, on the North Island it was at the time the second largest telescope in New Zealand. 

In 1910 Halley’s comet returned to the skies and on the 15th May 1910 the Crossley 9.3 inch telescope was used to take a photograph of the comet from the Meeanee observatory.