Monday 28 February 2022

The Northern Lights


Taking a break from my star searches for high latitude novae and my astronomical historical investigations particularly with the York based telescope maker Thomas Cooke, I sometimes get asked to present astronomy talks on cruise ships and we have just returned from one such trip to search for the Northern Lights.

We were in the arctic circle for 5 nights in the second half of February and incredibly we had 5 clear nights and saw the northern lights on all 5 nights. It was a pretty cool -15 degrees C.

It was incredible, the best display I have seen since 2018 again when I was also in the arctic. We saw just about ever kind of aurora on display, arcs, rays, curtains and a most spectacular corona or crown. This was amazing!!! We could see the corona waving and shimmering in the sky.

I have included a picture of the Corona which I would point out was not taken by me, I was shouting and screaming at it too much, although I was standing next to the cameraman. Richard Lovelock was the photographer and very professionally he got the photos. If you want to see more of the pictures of the northern lights and the cruise in general, I would suggest you contact Richard at

The colours which were greenish, reddish, purplish could be seen with the naked eye. It got so good that the photographers on board didn’t know which way to point their cameras.

I know that the Sun has been active in this early part of cycle 25 but with this activity this early it could be a bumper cycle for the northern lights chasers. Indeed people in the UK who have already been seeing them this year may be in for even more of a treat as the cycle continues.

Friday 11 February 2022

Blog Break

I will not be posting any blogs until the beginning of March, I have not fallen into a black hole, I will be in the Arctic Circle, I will be presenting  talks on a cruise ship its something I used to do before Covid struck.

Stay safe everyone and I'II be back, I wonder who said that!!

All of my previous blogs and podcasts can be found at 

Thursday 10 February 2022

A Cooke for Doncaster in Sheffield


The steel manufacturer and merchant Charles Daniel Doncaster from Broomhall Park Sheffield purchased from Thomas Cooke & Sons in 1858 a 3.25 inch telescope on a tall tripod, with steadying rods, finder, three astronomical eyepieces and one terrestrial pancratic eyepiece, plus vertical and horizontal slow motions, in a box. 

The cost was £33, in 2022 this would cost £ 3,360.

Wednesday 9 February 2022

A Cooke for Rugby


In 1858 C. Evan of Rugby purchased a 4.5 inch Thomas Cooke & Sons telescope. The telescope had a focal length of 78 inches. It was mounted on a fixed equatorial stand with clockwork motion, illuminating apparatus, micrometer with eyepieces, astronomical eyepieces £150 In 2022 this would cost £19,800.

I don’t know if this is the Rev C Evans of Rugby who was elected a FRAS in 1858, or if he had any connection with Rugby school.

Tuesday 8 February 2022

A Cooke for Cambridge


In 1867 William Henry Mandeville Ellis of St John’s College, Cambridge purchased a 4 inch Thomas Cooke & Sons telescope. I think that William Ellis was an architect. 

The telescope came with six astronomical, one comet, one eclipse and one terrestrial eyepieces. All the eyepieces had to be packed in a mahogany box.

Monday 7 February 2022

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.

A Cooke mounting for India


In 1868 F Doderet in Madras in India purchased a simple equatorial mounting for a 5 foot telescope. I don’t know if the telescope was a Cooke or not. The mounting came equipped with leather straps to hold the telescope, on a short tripod.

Saturday 5 February 2022

Another small Cooke


W T Dewesbury of Skelton I assume near York purchased in 1857 a 3.5 inch telescope with a plain mounting. There was a finder, steadying rods, four eyepieces, sun mirror, pancratic eyepiece. All of the above was in a box. The cost was £30, In 2022 that would equate to £3,600.

Friday 4 February 2022

A Cooke Camera took Shackleton's Endurance Photographs


The Endurance 22 Expedition will be using the latest technology looking for the wreck of the ship Endurance which was crushed by ice in 1915. This was the ship used by Ernest Shackleton and his crew on their mission to try to walk across Antarctica. Just as the Endurance 22 team are using the latest technology Shackleton used the latest technology to document his mission.

The official photographer was the Australian, Frank Hurley, and he chose a Graflex camera and as he wanted the best lenses available he used those made by Thomas Cooke & Sons of York to document the expedition.

As the Endurance 22 mission evolves over the next few weeks I am sure there will be lots of press coverage and when those images taken taken by Frank Hurley are shown, don’t forget he was using a Cooke lens.

It is worth noting that in 1912 Captain Scott had taken a Thomas Cooke & Sons theodolite with his to be able to accurately plot the point that he reached the south pole.

Thursday 3 February 2022

Another Cooke for London


Sir Thomas Cunningham of Eaton Place Belgrave Square London purchased in 1858 from Thomas Cooke & Sons a universal 3.5 equatorial telescope.

Wednesday 2 February 2022

Jupiter observed from India with a Cooke


The Rev J Spear observed Jupiter, Saturn and Mars in 1870 from Chukrata N W Provence's, Bengal, India using a Thomas Cooke & Sons 4.5 inch telescope.

Tuesday 1 February 2022

Flamsteed Catalogue Anomalies


I use my Fuji XT2 camera to take short 5 second exposures of star fields well away from the galactic plane. I am looking for high latitude novae. I just can’t be bothered to go below magnitude 9.0, there are too many stars to check.

John Flamsteed 1646-1719 produced a catalogue of naked eye stars in the various constellations that were visible to him. I keep coming across anomalies with stars that have Flamsteed numbers (Fl). I sometimes come across stars that are much brighter than the stars around them yet they don’t have a Fl number, they are clearly visible to the naked eye, but were not recorded by Flamsteed. On the other hand there are some Fl stars that are below naked eye visibility yet still have a Fl number!

Either the stars have changed over the past 300 years or were misidentified by him, or his charts were changed by someone after his death. I run all the usual checks through various catalogues to see if there is any data on them. There usually isn’t. This is one example:-

In-between Fl 32 Uma and Fl 35 UMa is an unmarked star which is brighter than both of these stars.

 The star is actually now known as ET Uma, it is an alpha2 Canum Venaticorum type variable. These are magnetic variables whose amplitude is very tiny, usually no more than 0.1 of a magnitude. This is a white A class star. It is listed with a magnitude of 4.9.

This is much brighter than FL32 at magnitude 5.7, also an A class star and Fl 35 at magnitude 6.3 which is of course below naked eye visibility and in theory would not have been seen by Flamsteed yet has a FL number. Fl 35 is an orange K class star.

Does anyone else come across these discrepancies when they check their photographs.