SO­CI­ETY IN FO­CUS

Sky at Night Magazine - - INTERACTIV­E - Robert Mount FRAS, South­port Astro­nom­i­cal So­ci­ety. www.south­por­tas­tro.org

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.

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