Friday 29 September 2023

Joseph Baxendell discovers nova T Bootes from Manchester in 1860

 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

This strange star was given the designation of T Bootes


Thursday 28 September 2023

1874 Transit of Venus seen through a Cooke telescope in New Zealand

 In New Zealand Mr James Townsend’s observatory was in  Christchurch hoping to see the Transit of Venus  with the Lands and Survey Officer Walter Kitson 1835-1914 making use of the 15.2 cm (6in) Cooke refractor. 

Kitson specifically looked for signs of a Venusian atmosphere, halo nor any light at all different from the light of the Sun was visible round the planet, nor was there any shadow round the planets limb.. What he did notice, though, was that Venus...appeared to have a lighter tinge towards its limb. This light tinge began to displace the blackness of the centre at about one-tenth of the planets diameter from the edge. The tinge was of a bluish colour, the centre being almost black.. About ten seconds before third contact, Kitson recorded...the first appearance to me of a shadow or darkening of the Suns face between the limbs of the planet and Sun near the point of contact., and third contact subsequently occurred, without any sign of the notorious black drop. About twenty minutes later Kitson observed fourth contact.

In 1891 three years before he died Townsend donated his 1864 Cooke telescope to Canterbury College and in 1896 it was installed in the newly erected tower observatory on campus. The campus precinct became the Christchurch Arts Centre with the establishment of the new University at Ilam, but the Townsend Observatory remained under the control of the University’s Department of Physics and astronomy. And was used for regular ‘public viewing nights’. Unfortunately the observatory tower was damaged during the 2010 earthquake and collapsed during the 2011 earthquakes. Although the telescope was badly damaged, surprisingly the object was found intact.


Tuesday 26 September 2023

Thomas Cooke telescopes used to observe Saturn in 1853

 Notice of Saturn and his rings By Mr Isaac Fletcher

“ On several very fine nights towards the close of October 1853, I carefully examined the planet Saturn with my 6 foot equatorial of 4.5 inches aperture, and on every night I distinctly and steadily saw the new obscure interior ring, which was discovered last years by Messrs Bond and Dawes. On each occasion I estimated its breadth at almost exactly one third of the space between the inner edge of the bright ring and the planet. Its colour to my eye is a dusky grey. In all the observations a power of 300 was found most efficient. Of the division of the outer ring my telescope afforded no evidence whatever. This of course, I anticipated from its limited aperture.

On the 12th of the month (November) I paid a visit to my friend Mr Pattison, of Scots House, near Newcastle upon Tyne; and about 8 o’clock in the evening we directed Mr Pattinson’s equatorialy mounted achromatic telescope of 10.3 feet focus and 7.25 inch clear aperture upon Saturn, and subjected the planet to a rigorous scrutiny. At this hour the state of the atmosphere was exceedingly favourable for delicate observations; and with powers of 400 and 440 the definition of the planet and rings was almost perfect, the outlines being exceedingly hard and sharp. The presence of the moon was of course unfavourable for seeing very faint objects; notwithstanding this, however the interior obscure ring was obvious and distinct, but we had no evidence of its being multiple. In moments of best vision Mr Pattinson and I were both quite satisfied of the existence of a very narrow faint line on the outer ring; and we were both of the opinion that this line was nearer to the outer than the inner edge of the ring. This line was only visible at intervals, and after the most steady gazing; nevertheless, the evidence obtained, was sufficient to satisfy us of its existence. In a short time, the state of the atmosphere deteriorated very considerably, and we were unable to obtain any further views of the faint line, which may fairly be assumed to be a division in the outer ring.

I am induced to make this communication to the Royal Astronomical Society, not because it contains any new facts, but because it confirms some important particulars the observations of other astronomers. Mr Pattinson’s equatorial is a recent specimen of the skill of Mr Cooke of York”


Monday 25 September 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 Harvest Supermoon on September 29th

 In September we will see the last of the four supermoons visible in 2023. When the Moon rises on September 29th it will be closer to the Earth than normal, and consequently will appear to be around 7% larger than normal. This will make a wonderful sight. Of course, cloud can spoil the occasion.

The average distance between the Moon and the Earth is 238,900 miles, (384,472 km). When the Moon is closer than that we have a supermoon. The Moon in September will be 224,657 miles (361,552km).

Traditionally September was the month when the crops were harvested; a time of year that was vital to local economies across the country. Harvesting the crops as quickly as possible was crucial in ensuring that people had enough food for winter. This is why the full moon we see this month is probably the best known of all: the Harvest Moon.

At this time of year, when the Sun sets, the Moon rises, which in pre-mechanised times meant that when farmers were harvesting they were not restricted to the normal hours of daylight. In medieval times all the harvesting was done by hand so it took much longer than methods used today. The moonlight allowed people from entire villages to work throughout the night. (Of course, the Moon does not shine, so when we refer to ‘moonlight’ we really mean reflected sunlight). The extra light a couple of days either side of full moon meant that the farmers would hopefully harvest enough to survive the coming winter and have enough to sell at the markets, which at this time were the lynch pins of the economy.


Sunday 24 September 2023

Thomas Cooke at the Yorkshire Fine Arta and Industrial Exhibition

 York Herald Saturday 25th August 1866

The Great Hall –Ground Floor

From this case the catalogue directs the attention of the visitor to that beautiful one which has been contributed by the Messrs. T. Cooke and Sous, of Buckingham Works. York. This contains a large variety of articles, the uses of which it would be difficult for any but of scientific attainments to decide; and we therefore append a list for the benefit of those who, attracted to an examination of them, cannot, for the nicety and finish displayed in their manufacture, help but admire.

In the centre of the case is a large theodolite (ten inches) on Everest's principle of construction; two smaller theodolites, of five and six inches, and the same construction; and one six-inch engineer's transit theodolite.

Surrounding these are three engineer's levels, with telescopes of from ten to fourteen inches focal length ; several portable and pocket telescopes ; a small telescope on stand ; a compound acromatic microscope, with geometrical stage with rectangular and circular motions ; several aneroid barometers, possessing T. Cooke and Sons' patent, much used by scientific travellers and the Alpine Club for measuring heights; cases of first-class mathematical drawing instruments a lathe slide rest, with straight line, rectangular and circular motions, and carrying cutting apparatus for gentlemen's fancy and ornamental turning ; a geometrical lathe chuck, of ten inches diameter, for producing or generating an infinite variety of beautiful figures and patterns required in ornamental turning ; a cutter frame and guide pulleys ; a rose engine and cutters used in ornamental turning ; a variety of binocular opera and tourist glasses ; a large first-class silver medal, awarded to T. Cooke and Sons at the Paris Exhibition of 1865; and two first-class medals also awarded to them at the London Exhibition of 1862.

At one end of the case is an astronomical clock, with mercurial compensated pendulum. This instrument can be adjusted for mean time, and thus forms an excellent regulator, suitable for a gentleman's hall. At the other end of the principal case is probably the largest extent aneroid barometer, remarkably sensitive, the dial about two feet diameter, giving a scale of fourteen inches for a corresponding one inch in the mercurial barometer. The theodolites and levels' first mentioned contain numerous improvements introduced by T. Cooke and Sons, and of such instruments they supply many to Government to be used on the great trigonometrical survey of India.

It need scarcely be added that the Messrs. Cooke have made the city celebrated for the manufacture of the above description of articles, and that beyond their case there are few possessing more interest in the Exhibition.


Saturday 23 September 2023

Shocking discovery of the body of a Thomas Cooke employee in River Ouse in 1880

York Herald Friday 27th February 1880

Yesterday afternoon, a shocking and startling discovery, which clears up a mystery, was made in the river Ouse at York.

 On the previous day some ‘sand catchers’, whilst at their work at Clifton Scope, dragged up a portion of male attire. On returning borne they made known this fact to some other persona, and yesterday Joseph Hewitt, a fitter, of Tanner-row, and William Rutherford, labourer, Toft Green, proceeded in boat to Scope, and after grappling in the river for about two hours they brought to the surface the headless body of a man. Information was at once given to P.C. Cockerill, who had the corpse removed to the Tower, Lendal Bridge, where it awaits an inquest. In addition to being headless, one arm is missing and body is in a very advanced state of decomposition. The clothing and some coins found on the body have, however, revealed it to be that of Samuel Taylor, about 27 years, fitter, who lodged in Boothan Row. 

On the 26th of December, 1878, he left his lodgings, and stated was going to skate to Poppleton, the river Ouse being frozen over at the time. He was, however, not seen again alive, and his disappearance caused great uneasiness, and was subject conjecture for some time, one person having alleged that on day named he heard a splash in the river at Scarborough Bridge. 

The deceased was in employ of Messrs. Cooke and Sons, opticians, Bishop hill, and his parents we understand, reside near Harrogate.


Friday 22 September 2023

An astronomer from Bristol who bought a Cooke telescope and developed bullets for rifles

 In 1865 W E Metford, from  Bristol purchased a telescope with  a 2  inches og or lens with a  21 inch focal length. 

Although he had an interest in astronomy his chief distinction was in the development of bullets for rifles.


Thursday 21 September 2023

Cooke OG for a jeweller in Maryport

 A jeweller by the name of  William Kitson of High Street, Maryport, Cumbria purchased in 1865  a 2 inch OG (lens)  from Thomas Cooke & Sons with a focal length of 30 inches.  I don't know if the OG was to be used for his jewellery work or in astronomy.


Wednesday 20 September 2023

Cooke telescopes for merchant in London

 In 1866 Kilpatrick &Co of Northampton Square London who were listed as merchants ordered a series of telescopes from  Thomas Cooke & Sons . The first was a 3.5 inch telescope mounted on a tall tripod. What is a little confusing is that at the same address is Peter Kilpatrick I don’t know if he was related in any way he was a jeweller. He also had a branch in Melbourne, Australia.

The following year 867 the company ordered another 3.5 inch telescope it had to be 4 feet 6 inch or 4 feet 9 inch length with finder and dew cap. No stand. 4 eyepieces. In addition in 1867 a slightly larger telescope with a 4 inch lens and mouthed on a tripod was also ordered


Tuesday 19 September 2023

The Autumn Equinox

On September 23 the Autumnal Equinox occurs, marking the start of autumn in the northern hemisphere and of spring in the southern hemisphere. 

The word equinox comes from the Latin words, aequi, which means 'equal' and nox, which means 'night'. At this instant the Sun lies above the equator and both poles of the planet are illuminated, meaning that on this day the length of daylight and night time are the same.


Thomas Cooke transit instrument and equipment for an observatory in Hertfordshire

Mr W U Jones of Bushey Heath ,Herts ordered in 1866 a transit instrument from Thomas Cooke, I don't know the size of the OG but I can guess it was a  3 inch., which was a  fairly standard size .

 The following year 1867 he ordered  4 friction wheels and tramway for an observatory which had a 10 feet and 4.5 inch inside diameter. The wheels had to be no  more than 8 inches in diameter.  


Monday 18 September 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.

Thomas Cooke astronomical eyepiece for astronomer in Leamington

In 1867  S U Jones, 4 Upper Parade, Leamington ordered an eyepiece for a small telescope which had  a 2.75 inch OG. I don't know if this was for a Cooke telescope


Sunday 17 September 2023

Cooke telescope for vicar in Cartmel

 The Rev Robert Curteis Hubbersty (1815-1905) Cartmel Lancashire ordered in 1865 a 4.5 inch  telescope with a 5 feet focal length.  In addition in 1866 he ordered a transit eyepiece of the highest quality.

According to 1861 census he was listed as Perpetual Curate of Cartmel, Lancashire.


Saturday 16 September 2023

A small Cooke telescope for optical firm in Bristol in 1868

In 1868 the optical firm of Husbands & Clarke of 8 St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol purchased a 2in telescope made by Thomas Cooke & Sons of York.

They requested that there should be two holes 3/8 inch in the tube.


Friday 15 September 2023

A Thomas Cooke telescope auctioned in Tewksbury in 1901

 I came across this small piece from the Tewksbury Register and Agricultural Gazette for Saturday 5th October 1901

The estate of George Banaster, Mythe Villa, Tewksbury will be sold at auction by Moore and Sons included is a magnificent 4 inch equatorial telescope by Cooke.


Thursday 14 September 2023

The Thomas Cooke Buckingham Works in York and the British Association meeting in 1881

 York Herald Saturday 3rd September 1881

British Association for the Advancement of Science

The works of Messrs. T. Cooke and the well known scientific instrument makers, will amply repay an inspection. They stand on Bishophill, on the site of the Palace formerly belonging to the Duke of Buckingham. These works were built 25 years ago by Thomas Cooke, originally a schoolmaster, whose mathematical talent earned him wide reputation among men of science; and the memoir written by Colonel Strange for the Royal Astronomical Society of Great Britain is a fitting tribute to his genius. The first efforts of Cooke as maker of scientific instruments were devoted the manufacture of small optical work, but his perseverance and skill soon earned for him work of a higher class, and he produced the largest telescope then known, with object glass of 25 inches diameter. since then two telescopes have been constructed with object glasses of 26 and 27 inches diameter, but to Cooke is due the honour of having made the sudden spring from 15 to 25 inches.

He died November, 1868, leaving the business to his two sons, under whose management the mechanical and optical branches are now conducted. The visitor to the works will see in action lathes for turning, planing machines, and tools of various kinds, the figuring of object glasses being the only process kept secret, this being done by means known only the firm. large automatic graduating engine may also be seen in operation.

A great portion of Messrs. Cooke's work is done for use abroad, instruments from these works having been used for the Indian Government Ordnance Survey, for measuring the Pyramids, and for many scientific experiments in other latitudes. The firm made the for Lord Lindsay's Transit Venus expedition in 1874, and are now making equatorials for the coming Transit of Venus 1882. The equatorial placed in the Royal Observatory, Brussels, last year, was also constructed at their works.

Among other specialities of the firm are turret clocks, lathes for amateur work, geometrical chucks for ornamental eccentric and epicycloidal turning, and post office clocks. In the general Post-office, London, are 20 Cooke clocks, controlled by electricity, and worked from one standard motor.

Visitors to the festival Concert Rooms should not fail notice their exhibit of instruments, including a transit instrument of 7-inch aperture, an equatorial of 6-inch aperture, made for the Spanish Government for the coming Transit of Venus expedition to the Antilles, smaller equatorials, electrically controlled chronograph for recording the time for astronomical occurrence to the fiftieth part of a second, and a double ray reversion spectroscope, with a dispersive power equal to that of prisms. Other instruments Messrs. Cooke on view are an equatorially mounted refractor, with object glass of 10-inch aperture, at the Fine Art Exhibition, and a large 15-inch object glass, at the Museum Gardens, orders for using which can be obtained from T. 8. Noble, Esq., Lendal, or at the works.


Wednesday 13 September 2023

The 1898 eclipse of the Sun seen from India with Thomas Cooke telescopes

The English astronomers observed the January 22nd 1898 eclipse of the Sun from various sites. The telescopes 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

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.


Tuesday 12 September 2023

In 1855 Thomas Cooke of York introduces himself to Europe at the Paris Exposition of 1855

The last French Monarch of France Napoleon III who was nephew to the Emperor Napoleon was rebuilding Paris in 1855 and wanted he Exposition of that year to be the most impressive. The Paris Expositions were begun in 1789.

Although Napoleon wanted it to be the greatest art and industrial event ever staged it had already been eclipsed by the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in Britain in 1851. The exposition would run from June to November 1855.

Among the exhibitors was Thomas Cooke of York who took the brave step of exhibiting a variety of optical equipment including a 7.5 inch equatorial with a clock work drive.

Cooke was exhibitor No. 392 and was described as selling astronomical and nautical instruments. He was in the 8th section ‘Arts connected with Science and Education’.

For Cooke it was a great success not only because he won a First Class Medal for his 7.5 inch telescope he also made some very good contacts including the astronomer Warren De La Rue.

He also met Lt Gen Edward Sabine, astronomer, geophysicist and explorer and Lt Col Strange from the East India Company, the latter two would be very important in ensuring that Cooke theodolites being used in the great survey of India.

He also introduced himself to the astronomers of Europe and in the following years there would be orders for telescopes and observatories from countries such as Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Russia and Sweden.

Monday 11 September 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.

John Goodricke1764-1786 one of 'The Fathers of Variable Star Astronomy'

This is the story of one of the most unusual astronomers of all time. His name was John Goodricke and he was deaf and unable to speak. He would have a tragically short life but his contribution to astronomy would be immense.

He was born in Groningen in Holland on September 17th 1764 to Henry and Levina Goodricke. The Goodricke family were a typical English aristocratic family with their ancestral home being at Ribston Hall near Knaresborough in North Yorkshire.

His grandfather Sir John Goodricke was the powerhouse of the family and achieved some importance within political circles. When he heard of the birth of his grandson he was most pleased, but turned to dismay when shortly afterwards it was realised that the infant was deaf. There was a very strong stigma imposed on disabilities within the aristocracy at that time.

In the early 1770s the Goodricke’s returned to England to York, the young John Goodricke was sent to Edinburgh to a school run by Thomas Braidwood for deaf children. We have little information of this part of his life, it is possible he learnt to lip read, sign language had not yet been devised. In 1778 he was sent to the Warrington Academy which had no special provisions for children with special needs.

It was here that he developed a great interest in mathematics, science and in particular astronomy. He left the Warrington academy in 1781 and returned to York to live in the Treasurers House near York Minster. It was here that his astronomical career would begin. He began his astronomical journal on the 16th November 1781.

A year earlier a distant cousin who was also an astronomer would also move to York, this was Edward Pigott. Edward Pigott lived with his father Nathaniel yet another astronomer at what is now No. 33 Bootham in York, the house still survives today is where William Arthur Evelyn (1860-1935) a pioneer of conservation in York lived.

Together John Goodricke and Edward Pigott they would forge an astronomical partnership that would push back the frontiers of astronomy. They would not only make discoveries but like true scientists they would try to explain them.

They were an odd couple, Goodricke a deaf youth of just 17, with his older cousin Pigott who had spent much of his life living in France and like to dress up French style. This was much more flowery than the more conservative English style. Today Pigott would have been described as a ‘dandy’

The only reason that the Pigotts were in York was that Nathaniel Pigott who was a distant cousin of Lady Anne Fairfax of Gilling Castle in North Yorkshire was trying to swindle her out of her inheritance! Edward played no part in this.

The two astronomers come together in 1781 just a few months after William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus from his home in the city of Bath. The scientific community was abuzz with all things astronomical.

They quickly began observing the sky, the Pigotts observatory has been described as the 3rd best private observatory in England while Goodricke used a small telescope at the Treasurers House.

They knew of a star in the constellation of Perseus that was called Algol, its official title is Beta Perseus, as far back as 1669 astronomers had noticed that it changed in brightness. It is what astronomers refer to today as a variable star because it varies in brightness. The world Algol means ‘The Winking Demon’ as this star marks the eye of the medusa from Greek mythology.

Goodricke observed the star and recorded that it remained at its brightest for 2 day, 20 hours, 48 minutes and 56 seconds, then it fades away for about 10 hours then recovers to it normal brightness. We know that today Goodricke’s observations are within a few seconds of modern estimates. This was of course using just his eye and a clock.

Interestingly because Goodricke was deaf a servant used his finger to mark out the beat of the clock to accurately work out the time. Even now we can see how the mind of Goodricke was working because although he knew that Pigott was making observations of Algol from his observatory in Bootham Goodricke knew that if Pigott was using the chimes of the bells in York Minster to check the time it would take an extra half a second for the sound to reach Pigott.

Goodricke in particular and Pigott both assumed there was another body orbiting Algol and blocking the light, and they were of course correct. They believed that it could be a planet, we know today that it was another star. However the idea that a planet can change the amount of light we see from another star is one of the ways that astronomers use to discover planets around other stars. They were over 200 years ahead of their time in thinking.

John Goodricke was only 19 in 1783 when he wrote to the Royal Society about his observations and thoughts on Algol. He was unknown was deaf and unknown outside of York, but Edward Pigott was good at networking and he knew anybody of importance in astronomy. He contacted his friend Nevil Maskelyne the astronomer royal explained what was happening and Goodricke’s work was published.

The effect on the astronomical community was electrifying, all over the country people were observing Algol, Goodricke was awarded the Copley medal by the Royal Society the highest award they could give.

If Goodricke and Pigott had stopped here they still would have made a remarkable contribution to astronomy, this was just the start they were not going to stop now.

The 10th September 1784 would become a night to remember in York, with not just one but two new variable stars being discovered, they were by Goodricke Beta Lyra in the constellation of Lyra (the Lyre) and from Pigott eta Aquila in the constellation of Aquila (the Eagle).

The indefatigable Goodricke would discover another variable star on October 24th this was delta Cepheus in the constellation of Cepheus (the King). This star is of immense importance today it is used a distance marker because it allows astronomers when locating these so called Cepheid variables to determine how far away distant galaxies are. Goodricke could of course never know of the importance of this star.

These discoveries were due to their complete knowledge of the locations of stars in the sky by continuously observing the night sky.

More reports were sent to London, the astronomers there must have wondered what on earth was going on in York!

Although Goodricke he did not know it his short life was nearly over, he died on the 20th April 1786 probably from pneumonia caught while observing the night sky. During the 1780s the river Ouse in York regularly froze over for up to 6 week each year giving an indication of how cold it was. He was made a fellow of the Royal Society a most prestigious honour for someone so young. Sadly he died two weeks before that letter arrived so he never knew of that honour.

Sunday 10 September 2023

Thomas Cooke of York and the Mayflower

Scientific Instruments made by the York based company Cooke Troughton and Simms which was formed in 1922 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.

The instruments which were inscribed to commemorate their method of transport will eventually be taken by the company’s representatives in the cities of Boston, Chicago, and the states of California and Colorado.

Friday 8 September 2023

Maurice Farman, The Chevreuse Observatory and a 9.5 inch Thomas Cooke telescope

As far as I am aware this is the not the same Maurice Farman who was an early pioneer in the days of flight, but I am always ready to be proved wrong.

In 1908 while observing at the Chevreuse Observatory near Paris, an observatory I have never heard of before he observed 1,100 double stars while using a 9.5 inch Cooke telescope.

His observations were apparently quite brief and usually consisted of just one line of information, many additional notes were drawn from historical observations of the stars he observed in 1908.

Thursday 7 September 2023

September 10th 1784, A Night to Remember in York for astronomy

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 we are not sure whether he could speak or lip read and Edward Piggot who dressed in a very flamboyant style and 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, 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, they would discover two unknown variable stars. 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 in October 1784 .

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.

September 10th 1784 was indeed a Night to Remember in York

Wednesday 6 September 2023

Mauritius , a Transit of Mercury in 1907 and a Cooke telescope

 The transit of Mercury was observed on November 14th 1907 from the Royal Alfred Observatory in Mauritius using a Cooke 6 inch refractor. The transit which was seen through a partly cloudy sky and the limb of the Sun was described as being boiling. Mercury appeared as a clear cut black disc, perfectly circular with no spot or fringe.

There were 11 photographs taken during the transit with the 6 inch Cooke. The telescope had ben supplied to Mauritius by the colonial government in1874 in order to observe the transit of Venus.

Tuesday 5 September 2023

Comet Borrelly 1903, Isaac Roberts and his 5 inch Cooke telescope

 Discovered on the 21st July 1903 by M Borrelly 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 to close too the Sun to be seen.

Isaac Roberts at Crowborough, photographed the comet using his 5 inch Cooke telescope. He also photographed the comet with his 20 inch reflector.

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!

Monday 4 September 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.

Comet Perrine 1902 and the Isaac Roberts 5 inch Cooke telescope

 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. Roberts made a series of 5 photographs of the comet between September 6th and October 10th.

He also photographed comet Perrine 6 times using his 20 inch reflector.

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.

Saturday 2 September 2023

Thomas Cooke telescope 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.

Friday 1 September 2023

The disorderly apprentice at the Thomas Cooke factory

On Thursday November 3rd 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 him his grade.

Mr Cooke said that 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 magistrate ordered the lad’s indentures to be dismissed. J Chadwick has since joined the Cape Mounted Rifles in South Africa