SOCIETY IN FOCUS
Recently, on a bright St Patrick’s Day, Southport Astronomical Society opened the Hesketh Park Observatory to the public. The park and observatory are both Grade II-listed, both having recently celebrated their 150th anniversaries.
For many years the dome was located at the home of Joseph Baxendell in Southport. A meteorologist, in 1871 he relocated his family to Southport to manage a newly built weather station in Hesketh Park. He used the telescope to detect variable stars and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Society.
The telescope is a 6-inch achromatic refractor with a focal length of 90 inches. Manufactured in 1869 by Thomas Cooke
& Sons of York, it is the only one of its type to retain the gravity -powered mechanical drive system with which it was ftted.
The observatory was opened to the public in 1901, when local dignitaries were among the crowds attending. Our recent open day was also busy, with queues to get in. Visitors were shown the interior by society members who explained the operation, history and purpose of the telescope, and answered countless questions. In total, 167 visitors came, including 65 young people, to enjoy a novel experience that stirred their minds.