Monday 26 September 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.

Mercury seen in daylight in 1928 through a Cooke Telescope

 Mr Frederick Longbottom 1850-1933 was born in Scarborough the family would move to Worcestershire where they would become hop merchants. When he retired he was able to devote much more time to his favourite hobby, astronomy.

He had a 6 inch Thomas Cooke and Sons telescope which he had before 1896 because he took it with him to Norway to try to observe the eclipse of the Sun. He also went on eclipse trips to Algiers in 1900 and Spain in 1905. 

He was at Giggleswick for the 1927 eclipse of the Sun. He helped to form the Chester Astronomical Society.

He eventually left the north of England and settled in Boscombe in Hampshire and it was from here that Longbottom was able in early June 1928 to see the planet Mercury in the day time sky using the 6 inch telescope.

Saturday 24 September 2022

An Observatory for Stockport in 1860?

 On the 24th September 1860 the foundation stone for an observatory at Vernon Park, Stockport was laid. The observatory was to be designed on the English period of Gothic style.

The observatory will be divided into 8 chambers the storey will be used for astronomical purposes.

The building will be made of the best hard red and white bricks with Hollington stone for the windows and dressings. The staircase will be of hard Yorkshire stone. The top of the tower will be open but protected by a light ornamental iron railing. The height of the building will be 160 feet and the cost will be £1,000.

Sadly the funds for the tower were not raised so this potentially fine observatory for Stockport was never built.

Thursday 22 September 2022

Belts on Jupiter seen from Manchester in 1869

 On September 25th 1869 Mr Ormesher using his 5.25 inch refractor telescope in Manchester noticed that the belts on Jupiter were more numerous and that one of them situated just above the planet’s equator, was very irregular and somewhat darker.

Wednesday 21 September 2022

Spots on Jupiter seen from Manchester in 1869

 On September 22nd 1869 Mr Henry Ormesher in Manchester observed 3 dusky spots on the disc of the planet Jupiter. They were situated on the upper large belt and seemed to convey the impression that his atmosphere was much disturbed. 

I believe he used a 5.25 inch refractor, I don’t know the maker of this instrument.

Monday 19 September 2022

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. 

Sunday 18 September 2022

Rev J Spear in India with his Cooke

 On June 13th 1870 the Rev. J Spear observed the occultation of Saturn by the Moon. Definition excellent. The Moon passed steadily over the planet without causing any change of form, or giving any indication of the planet’s light passing through an atmospheric medium. The planet when near the moon’s limb assumed a ‘sickly green hue’ according to a note I made at the time and which I saw corroborated in the Monthly Notice afterwards.

November 9th 6.30 am observed Mars, phase gibbous. Snow and ice on the north pole intensely bright and glistening.

December 8th 1870 the Rev J Spear watched for the occultation of zeta Tauri, no occurrence occurred. The Moon passing at leats 10 minutes north of the test star to the best of my judgement.

The telescope used was a 4.5 inch Thomas Cooke & Sons , the defining power of the telescope is excellent.

Good nights are not very frequent except in the cold season. Scintillation of the stars within about 12 degrees of the horizon is very considerable, even at my present elevation of about 7,300 feet.

I fear there is nothing else in my notes worth communicating. I have not been able to obtain good views of Venus lately owing to the heavy fogs.

Churkrata N W Provinces, Bengal

Saturday 17 September 2022

September 14th and Bright Meteors.

On Wednesday 14th September 2022 at about 10.00 pm a bight meteor was seen from parts of Britain. It was caught by cameras and was clearly very bright and spectacular. 

However the 14th September is a date when bright meteors appear to be seen.

What was described as the Great Detonating Meteor was seen  from Manchester on September 14th  1875 at 8.27 pm by Mr T W Grey. He said 'The nucleus appeared to be of about two thirds that of the moon, the colour resembling the magnesium light, the tail apparently 2 or 3 yards in length, of a  ruddy colour: the part immediately in  contact with the nucleus resembled ordinary fire. I heard no noise. The head was excessively bright. I first saw it very near the Moon, whence it proceeded in a northerly course, parallel with the Earth's surface and about 60 degrees above the easterly horizon. Its speed for a meteor was slow. It remained in sight for 7 seconds until it disappeared behind the houses.

Also on September 14th

On September 14th 1901 at 8.44 pm an unusually bright object was seen in the sky and was witnessed over a large part of the country.

Mr J Halton of Manchester says the nucleus seemed to plough its way through the atmosphere as though strongly resisted. The meteor was estimated as being as bright as the full moon. The radiant point was  similar to that of the meteor of September 14th 1875 which was also seen from Manchester.

Friday 16 September 2022

Leeds Astronomical Society in 1911

 The Journal and Transcriptions (no.19) of this society for 1911 contains reports of a number of papers read before the society. Among others there is an interesting discussion of the mutual eclipses of the satellites of Jupiter, by Mr Whitmell, a paper dealing with suitable observations for amateur astronomers by Mr Ellison Hawks, and a discussion of the structure and sidereal significance of nebulae by the Rev Ivo Gregg.

The membership now totals seventy five and the average attendance at meetings is fourteen.

Thursday 15 September 2022

Toronto Cooke


This report on the Toronto Observatory was published in 1884

The Toronto Observatory in Canada is chiefly of an educational character, but it has been celebrated as one of the chief magnetical stations in the world, the chief magnetic quantities being continually photographed there. In this capacity it is sending out two of its staff to make a magnetic survey of the neighbourhood of the Rocky Mountains where they pass into British Territory.

A very complete equatorial by Thomas Cooke and Sons has recently been erected here. C Carpmael Esq., is the Director

Wednesday 14 September 2022

S J Johnson and the limit of 3.25 inch Cooke telescope

 Professor Langley in his ’observations on Mount Etna’ seems to consider the limit for a 3.25 inch aperture at that latitude to be 11.5 magnitude of the Bedford Catalogue and further refers to visibility of iota Orionis with 3.25 inch.

There does not however, appear to be any difficulty in discerning this 11th magnitude companion of iota Orionis in this country. 

On January 21st by applying deep magnifiers 260 and 315 to my 3.25 inch Cooke it came into view at once. Lower powers that exhibited the 8.5 magnitude companion did not avail for the more minute point of light.

I find Smyth’s 12th magnitude star near Aldebaran easily seen with like powers, when the principal was put just outside the field, but not so easy as the distant comes of alpha Lyrae.

Faithfully yours

S J Johnson

Abbenhall Rectory


January 25th 1881

Tuesday 13 September 2022

Norman Lockyer, his Cooke Telescope and Lord Tennyson


Westminster Gazette,  Monday 12th December 1910

The very interesting little book, " Tennyson as a Student and Poet of Nature," by Sir Norman Lockyer, K.C.8., and Winifred L. Lockyer just published by Messrs. Macmillan (4s. M. net), contains the passages in the late Laureates works which deal with the scientific aspects of nature. "

All such references have been brought together and classified, and by means of notes kindly supplied by various authorities it has been shown how very true to fact Tennyson's descriptions are and how keen and careful an observer be was." Quite a number of prominent scientific authorities have given their assistance, and Lord Tennyson has also read some of the proofs and made suggestions.

In the matter of nature knowledge, Dante, it is contended, is the only poet Who can be even named along with Tennyson. Sir Norman Lockyer, in his preface, tells of his own meetings with Tennyson, and of the great interest the poet always took in matters scientific.

Sir Norman was living in 1864 at West Hampstead, and had erected his 6in. Cooke Equatorial in the garden, and concerning Tennyson he says : I soon found that he was an enthusiastic astronomer. and that few points of the descriptive part of the subject had escaped him. He was, therefore. often in the observatory. Some of his remarks still linger fresh in my memory. One night the moon’s terminator swept across the broken ground round Tycho, he said "What a splendid Hell that would make." Again, alter showing him the clusters in Hercules and Perseus, he remarked musingly. I cannot think much of the county families after that."

In the seventies and eighties Tennyson rarely came to London without discussing some scientific points with his friend. In 1890 Sir Norman visited Tennyson at Aldworth, when he was in his eighty-second year : I was then (says Sir Norman) writing the " Meteoritic Hypothesis" and he had asked for proof sheets. Where I arrived there I was touched to find that he had had them bound together for convenience in reading, and from the conversation we had I formed the impression that he had read every line. It was a subject after his own heart. . . . One of the nights during my stay was very fine, and be said to me " Now. Lockyer. let us look at the double stars again," and we did. There was a 2inch telescope at Aldworth. Tennyson's interest in astronomy was, Sir Norman adds, persistent until his death.

The breadth of Tennyson's outlook upon nature is, as Sir Norman Lockyer points out, only equalled by the minute accuracy of observation displayed. Hundreds of quotations are here grouped together from his poems, and they refer not only to evolution but to the starry heavens, the sun and sunlight, the moon and moonlight, bird-life and song, the insect world, animals and their ways, plants and trees, water and aquatic life, the importance of knowledge, and so forth.

Monday 12 September 2022

John Brett, Pre Raphaelite painter and Astronomer with a Cooke

 John Brett 1831-1902 was a Pre Raphaelite painter and an astronomer. Brett was born in Bletchingley, Surrey. He was elected to the Royal Astronomical society on June 9th 1871 but had a lifelong interest in astronomy.

He built a very strange house in Keswick Road, Putney, London where on the roof he had a 4 inch Cooke telescope this was the Matthew Equatorial owned by the Royal Astronomical Society. I am not sure why it is so called. The 4 inch Cooke was mounted on a solid brick pier on the top of the house with the pier going right down to the foundation level of the house. He also owned a 3 inch Cooke refractor. I am not sure of the age of either telescope.

The 4 inch Cooke was used by Brett to draw the crater Copernicus which appeared on page 1 and is illustration 1 of the Royal Astronomical Society Observatory journal which was published on April 20th 1877. In the journal the drawing is labelled as being made using a refractor by Cooke suggesting that it was a pre-1857 instrument.

Both telescopes were used to observe the transit of Mercury on May 6th 1878 with Brett using the 4 inch and his assistant Walter Pye using the 3 inch Cooke. Most of his observations using these two Cooke telescopes were of either the planets or the Moon.

His largest telescope was an 11 inch Browning reflector which also used from the roof of his house. He used the 1838 vintage 6.7 inch Sheepshanks equatorial at Greenwich to draw the great comet of 1882 and in 1874 Brett had the opportunity to use the 24 inch reflector owned by William Lassells to observe Jupiter.

The Astronomy Show

 As a mark of respect to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II there will be no Astronomy Show this evening.

Sunday 11 September 2022

Satellite Transits of Jupiter seen with a Cooke in Canada

 On December 12th 1891 Dr Donaldson of Fergus, Ontario , who had a clear sky, Wrote:- 

“On coming back to the telescope (a 3.5 inch refractor by Cooke), about 6.35, I fancy, I saw that IV had emerged from Transit, and I could not help noticing, the great contrast in colour between it and III and Jupiter itself, being of a dark – bluish colour, apparently so dark in fact that when I tried my 2.25 inch glass upon it I could scarcely detect it at all. In the 3,25 inch, the sight was very interesting, the two satellites looking almost like a close double star of complementary colours, III being of a golden yellow and IV of a dark blue colour.

Saturday 10 September 2022

Another Comet Photographed by Isaac Roberts with his Cooke

 On August 31st 1902 Charles Perrine at the Lick Observatory in America discovered a comet, this was Comet b 1902 Perrine. It was discovered in the constellation of Perseus.

The comet was photographed by Isaac Roberts using his 5 inch Cooke telescope between September 6th and October 10th 1902  

Isaac Roberts began his astronomical career in 1878 at Rock Ferry on the Wirral Peninsular using a 7 inch Cooke telescope, in 1882 he moved to Maghul near Liverpool and in 1890 he moved to Crowborough in East Sussex where he observed comet Perrine.

Friday 9 September 2022

Comet Borelly and the Isaac Roberts Cooke


Discovered on the 21st July 1903 by M Borelly at the Marseilles Observatory the comet would become an easy naked eye object at magnitude 2.5 it was observed until August 24th when it became too close to the Sun to be seen.

Isaac Roberts at Crowborough, photographed the comet  using his 5 inch Cooke telescope .

During the time the comet was in the sky the weather was poor and when the weather was clear the Moon was near full making photography difficult. That sounds a bit like the weather today!

Thursday 8 September 2022

Cooke and the Crimea War


Thomas Cooke instrument maker in York completed in September 1855 an order for telescopes for the British Government which will be fitted to canons being used by the British army during the Crimean War.

Wednesday 7 September 2022

1927 Transit of Mercury seen from Suffolk with a Cooke


Mr. A. F. Bennett: Suffolk

The transit was observed in a perfectly clear sky from 7h 55 m onwards, using the 6-inch Cooke equatorial refractor, first by projection, then by Cooke solar diagonal with eyepiece X 80, and finally, for the concluding phases, X 240. The seeing was fairly steady. The contacts at egress were timed by marine chronometer and " venner " chronograph watch, the chronometer being rated by wireless signals before and after the observation, as follows :. The " Black Drop " phenomenon was very marked and differed somewhat from the appearance observed with exactly the same instruments and eyepiece at the transit of 1924 May 8. On that occasion, a dark and more or less diffused shading appeared between the planet and the Sun's limb just before inner contact.

 In this transit, of 1927 Nov. 10, a dark band or ligament, more certainly defined, seemed to spread between the limb and planet, making the appearance of the latter somewhat pear shaped. Due to atmospheric tremor at the Sun's limb, the time recorded for the last contact cannot be given the same weight as those for the two earlier phases. It is interesting to note that at 8 h 7 m the planet could be glimpsed, just within the limb, when using (as a monocular) one half of a pair of ex-Service Dollond inverting binoculars, power X 6, aperture 35 mm., with an orange-tinted dark cap over the eyepiece.

Tuesday 6 September 2022

Moon seen through Canadian Cooke in 1896


Dr J C Donaldson of Fergus, Ontario, Canada forwarded some notes of observations of the Moon made during 1896. 

In his 3.5 inch Cooke refractor with a power of 326, the three central mountains in Copernicus were plainly visible and also the object known as the straight wall.

Monday 5 September 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.

Total Solar Eclipse, January 22nd 1898 English Preparations by Edward Maunder FRAS

The third station at Wardha, on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway from Bombay to Nagpur, will be occupied by Mr Newall, who proposes to use a large spilt spectroscope, with two prisms of 62 degrees, in the attempt to determine the speed of rotation of the corona by the relative displacements of its lines as observed east and west of the Sun.

In the same neighbourhood, Captain Hills will probably fix his apparatus, which will consist of two slit spectroscopes, having the slit tangential to the Sun’s limb at the point of second contact and diametral receptively. The slits are 1.5 x 0.004 inches and 2 x 0.004 inches respectively; and the prisms are, for the first spectroscope, of two flint prisms of 60 degrees, 4.5 inch base, 2.5 inch height at maximum deviation for Hydrogen gamma and for the second spectroscope, of four quartz prisms of 60 degrees, 3.25 inch base, 2.75 inch height at maximum deviation for Hydrogen epsilon. The collimator and camera lenses are single quartz lenses, of 2.5 inch aperture , 30 inch focus and 3 inch aperture and 36 inch focus.

The objectives are all achromatic Cooke lenses of 4.5 inch aperture, 5 feet 10 inches focus, and a single quartz lens of 5 inch aperture, 4 feet 9 inches focus

Sunday 4 September 2022

The Cooke at Eton School


In 1870 one of the masters possible H G Madan at Eton School decided that they would provide a telescope. They chose a 5.9 in Thomas Cooke & 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 science master at Eton School was 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 3 September 2022

Cooke and the Mayflower


Scientific Instruments made by the York based company Cooke Troughton and Simms were sent across the Atlantic Ocean on board the Mayflower 2.

The Mayflower 2 sailed on April 20th 1957 from Plymouth in Devon replicating the original voyage of the Mayflower in 1620. The Mayflower 2 arrived in Plymouth Massachusetts on June 22nd 1957 and was then towed to New York City on July 1st 1957.

The instruments were placed in a treasure chest where when it arrived in New York City was greeted by President Eisenhower. It then became a tourist attraction with its treasures including the Cooke Troughton and Simms instruments being seen by tourists.

Friday 2 September 2022

Cooke and the Disorderly Apprentice

 On Thursday 3rd November 1859 J Chadwick esq apprentice summoned Mr Cooke optician and mathematical instrument maker to the magistrates at the Guildhall in York for refusing to teach to teach him his grade.

Mr Cooke said the J Chadwick had grossly misbehaved and had absented himself on one or two occasions. Under these circumstances Mr Cooke refused to receive the lad into his service.

The magistrates ordered the lad’s indentures to be dismissed. J Chadwick has since joined the Cape Mounted Rifles in South Africa.

Thursday 1 September 2022

September 10th 1784, A Night to Remember in York

 John Goodricke and Edward Piggot formed an unlikely alliance when they met in York in 1781, because for 5 short years they would make York one of the astronomical centres of the world. Through their observations of the night sky they would earn the title of ‘The Fathers of Variable Star Astronomy

John Goodricke was deaf and possibly unable to speak while Edward Piggot who dressed in a very flamboyant style knew everyone worth knowing in the world of 18th century astronomy.

They had already observed and explained the light variations of beta Perseus or to give its name Algol, or the winking demon, they believed that there were two objects orbiting each other causing the regular light variations. This idea is used by astronomers today when they are looking for exoplanets around other stars, Goodricke and Piggot were nearly 250 years ahead of the game.

If they contributed nothing else to astronomy there achievements would be immense. Yet it was on the night of September 10th 1784 that a series of amazing discoveries would be made, both would each discover a new variable star. Amazingly up until this date only 5 variable stars were known to astronomers.

Yet on this night in York, Edward Piggot would discover the variability of eta Aquila which astronomers now recognise as a Cepheid variable , these are stars that astronomers use to work out the distance to other galaxies. The prototype Cepheid, is delta Cepheus which was discovered, yes you guessed it by John Goodricke .

A few hundred yards away from Edward Piggot in York John Goodricke had just discovered the variability of beta Lyra which would become the prototype of this class of stars. This is a system of 2 stars that are so close together that the gravitational pull of the stars pull them out of shape from a spherical to an ellipsoidal shape. Goodricke would be totally unaware of this.

They were an amazing team of astronomers