Wednesday 15 February 2023

Cooke telescopes for Carlisle

 In February 1857 William Day of Carlisle who was headmaster at the Christchurch Boys School in Carlisle purchased a 4.25 inch portable equatorial telescope. As this was early 1857 it could still be a Thomas Cooke of York telescope rather than a Thomas Cooke & Sons of York, because it was around this time that the company changed its name.

He later in 1858 purchased a smaller 3.5 inch telescope also from Cookes.

Monday 13 February 2023

The Astronomy Show

 Join me, Martin Lunn tonight and every Monday evening from 7.00 pm-9.00 pm on the Astronomy Show, probably the only regular astronomy show on any radio station in the country.

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 Astronomy in Yorkshire - God’s Own Country.

The Astronomy Show every Monday evening only on Drystone Radio 102 and 103.5 FM the Astronomy show can be heard live on line at and can also be heard later on the Drystone Radio Podcast.

The Eddowes Bowman Cooke telescope

 Eddowes Bowman 1810-1869 was born in Nantwich in Cheshire and although he considered going into an engineering profession but his career took him into the field of classical literature.

He became chair of Greek and Latin Classics and Greek and Roman History in Manchester New College. It was also at this time that he developed an interest in natural science. This included astronomy.

In the early 1860s he purchased a 7.25 Cooke refractor in a specially constructed observatory. I don't know if the observatory was built by Cookes.

 Due to his many other interests it appears as if the telescope was little used. He died at Victoria Park Manchester.

Saturday 11 February 2023

Mercury seen from Hull in 1868 with a small Cooke Telescope

 On February 15th 1868 at 6.15 pm William Lawton of Hull observed the planet Mercury, it was as he described one of the clearest views he had of that planet.

Using powers of 50 and up to 100 on the 2 inch Cooke and Sons telescope he was able to observe the gibbous aspect of the planet and also took note of its brilliancy.

Friday 10 February 2023

Possible TLP seen with a Thomas Cooke telescope in 1867

TLP’s or Transient Lunar Phenomenon are bright patches which can be seen on the surface of the Moon. They are caused by gas escaping through cracks on th surface of the Moon. The term Transient Lunar Phenomenon seems to have been first used by the TV astronomer Patrick Moore.

On the 9th April 1867 TGE Elger from Bedford using a Thomas Cooke and Sons of York 4 inch telescope was waiting for the occultation by the Moon of the star 150 Tauri when a bright spot as bright as a 7th magnitude star appeared in the crater Aristarchus.

The spot was seen from 7h 30 min to about 8h and 15 min and it became much fainter. At 9h it was scarcely visible through the 4 inch telescope. Elger used powers of 75 and 115 on his Cooke telescope.

Could this be another example of an early observation of a TLP?

Looking for a Nursery in Space

Our solar system including the Sun, Earth and Moon was formed around 4.5 billion years ago. This stellar nursery was formed from a large cloud of dust and gas. If you want to see a stellar nursery today all you have to do is to find Orion.

Just below the stars of Orion’s Belt you will notice the fuzzy patch of the Great Orion Nebula. This is a stellar nursery: an area of space where as many as 700 stars are actually being created out of a giant cloud of dust and gas at the moment.

On a clear evening during the winter months it can be seen with the naked eye. The Orion Nebula is around 1,300 light years away. This means that light travelling at 186,000 miles per second has taken 1,300 years to reach us.

Thursday 9 February 2023

10 inch Thomas Cooke telecope in Denmark

 On February 23rd 1905 V Neilson at the Urania Observatory in Denmark using the Thomas Cooke and Sons 10 inch Telescope observed the crater Petavius. He found that in the northern part many rills. In making the observations powers of 328 and 447 were used on the Cooke telescope.

Wednesday 8 February 2023

Have you ever seen a Unicorn?

Finding a Unicorn on Earth is clearly impossible, so where could you go and look for one. Well if you know where to look there is one in the sky. In the winter months you can try to find Monoceros the Unicorn

If you can find Orion which is formed by a splendid looking large rectangle of bright stars in the winter sky which then surround the three stars that form Orion’s Belt.

A line drawn from the belts tars downward and to the left will take you to Sirius the Dog Star, the brightest star in the sky.

If you go back to Orion and draw a line from Betelgeuse which is the top left star of the rectangle and draw a line to the left you will reach Procyon the small dog star.

Now draw a line from Betelgeuse to Procyon to Sirius and back to Betelgeuse. You will have formed a triangle of three stars. The winter triangle.

Although it looks to be empty of stars if you look very carefully on a clear dark night you will see lots of faint stars. You have just found a Unicorn .

There are 88 constellations in the sky Of these 48 are classed as classical and go back to the times of the ancient Greeks and they have myths and legends attached to them. The other 40 constellations are classed as modern. This is because they were invented during the 1600s and 1700s.

The Unicorn or Monoceros to give its Latin name was invented by the Dutch map maker Petrus Plancius in 1612.

The next time there is a clear night during the rest of February or March have a look at the night sky, find the winter triangle and see if you can spot a Unicorn.

Cooke Lens for Wales

 In 1864 William Evans (1828-1904) from Llanerchymedd, Anglesey, who was a surgeon purchased a 3.5 inch OG for an old tube. I don’t know it this tube was a Cooke or not.

Tuesday 7 February 2023

Thomas Cooke telescope for Rugby

 In 1858 C. Evans 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 2023 this would cost £23,800.

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.

Monday 6 February 2023

Have a Look for Sirius the Dog Star

 The month of February its the best time of the year to look for the brightest star in the sky. This is Sirius the Dog Star.

To find Sirius use the stars of Orion’s Belt to help you. The constellation of Orion can be seen in the sky in the south in the evenings and is formed from four bright stars that form a splendid looking rectangle and in the middle of this rectangular shape are three bright stars in a diagonal line. These are the stars of Orion’s Belt.

Draw a line to the left and downwards following the line of the belt stars to find Sirius which is the brightest star in the constellation of Canis Major the greater Dog.

Sirius is bright because it is close to us astronomically speaking. It is only around 8.5 light years away. Other stars are hundreds, thousands or millions of light years away. Astronomers use the speed of light to measure distance in space. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second.

In ancient Egypt the astronomers watched for Sirius to rise in the morning sky just before the Sun. This would be during August. They knew this meant the river Nile was about to flood. The farmers had to make sure their fields were ready for the life giving water and sediment that would flood the fields and hopefully ensure a good crop. This event is called the Heliacal Rising.

If you have a chance to see Sirius in the next few weeks and have any members of your family who are around 8.5 years old, and they can see Sirius then the light that will enter their eyes left Sirius the year they were born and travelling at 186,000 miles per second has just reached the Earth.

Happy Stargazing

The Astronomy Show

 Join me, Martin Lunn tonight and every Monday evening from 7.00 pm-9.00 pm on the Astronomy Show, probably the only regular astronomy show on any radio station in the country.

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 Astronomy in Yorkshire - God’s Own Country.

The Astronomy Show every Monday evening only on Drystone Radio 102 and 103.5 FM the Astronomy show can be heard live on line at and can also be heard later on the Drystone Radio Podcast.

Thomas Cooke telescope for Cambridge in 1867

 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.

Saturday 4 February 2023

Thomas Cooke telescope for steel merchants 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.

Friday 3 February 2023

The Thornborough Henges

The following is taken from Astronomy in Yorkshire presented by me on my podcasts which can be heard at 

We now travel back in time not this time in millions but in 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 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 Thornborough 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.

A Cooke telescope for Belgrave Square

 Sir Thomas Cunningham of Eaton Place Belgrave Square London purchased in 1858 from Thomas Cooke & Sons a universal 3.5 equatorial telescope. Later in 1859 he purchased from Cookes an equatorial mounting with tangent screw motion on a tripod for the latitude of Great Britain.

Thursday 2 February 2023

There will be a Micro Full Moon on February 5th

The February 5th  full moon is called the Snow Moon as this is the month that traditionally we see most snow. Our nearest neighbour orbits the Earth once a month or a ‘moonth’ as it used to be called.

The Moon orbits the Earth not in a circle but an ellipse or egg shape. This means that when the Moon is closest to the Earth  the Moon appears larger than normal and we see a Super Moon but when the Moon is further away it will look smaller than normal, hence a Micro Moon.

Planets observed from India with a Cooke telescope


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

He also observed double stars using a Barlow lens more than doubling the telescopes powers.