News and events

We are pleased to announce that Professor Michael Bode BSc (Hons), PhD, FRAS, CPhys, FinstP has accepted our offer to become President of the Society. Currently he’s Special Representative of the European Astronomical Society to the EU in Brussels. He retired in 2015 as Professor of Astrophysics at Liverpool John Moore’s University where he was the founding Director of the LJMU Astrophysics Research Institute.

His research work focuses on furthering our understanding of exploding stars, and he’s held both Advanced and Senior Fellowships of the UK Research Councils. He has published over 240 papers in the top peer reviewed international journals in astronomy, including 14 Nature Letters, and edited 5 books. He has given many public talks on his areas of expertise and appeared regularly on BBC TV’s ‘Sky at Night’.

The Society opened the observatory on Sunday 16th September as part of the celebration of the 150th Anniversary of Grade 2 listed Hesketh Park, the 3rd oldest public park in the world. The Society recently opened the observatory on Sunday 5th August during the Folk in the Park music event, which resulted in several new members joining  The Society will be opening the observatory on an ad hoc basis during the day and darker evenings whenever skies are clear. These openings will provide opportunities to view the Moon, Planets, and even the Sun, using members and/or Society telescopes and the Victorian observatory’s’ 1869 six inch Cooke telescope.

The society will endeavour to support scheduled weekend open days organised by the Fernley Observatory Heritage Group on the either the last Sunday or Saturday in the month between 10.30 am and 4.00 pm. Planned dates this year are Sunday 29th April, Saturday 26th May, Sunday 24th June, Saturday 28th July, Sunday 26th August, and Saturday 29th September.

Members of the Formby U3A Science Group visited the Grade 2 listed observatory on Wednesday 4th July. Bob and Ray described the 1869 Cooke telescope and its capabilities, together with the historic characters connected with its arrival in Southport and eventual placement in Hesketh Park. The group enjoyed the occasion as the two photos show, helped by a warm sunny day.

Patrick who manages our Outreach activities organised the preparation and printing of four educational astronomy leaflets about the Sun, Moon, Solar System’s Planets, and Milky Way. These were funded by a grant of £250 provided by the company Andy Cowan works for. These information sheets are suitable for schoolchildren and adults with little or no knowledge about these celestial objects.

Regrettably on the night of April 9th 2018, thieves broke into the ground floor and stole two small telescopes belonging to FOHG, causing damage to one of the two new custom made doors. Consequently, no SAS items of value are left in the observatory.

Bob Mount has set up a Southport U3A Astronomy Group and become its group leader. Any SAS member wanting further details should speak to Bob at one of our meetings. Website visitors can visit our external links page for details.

Following the award of our 2016 Skipton Building Society Grassroots grant, the noticeboard has now been installed near the observatory in Hesketh Park. The Society for the History of Astronomy has included the left hand photograph and a short write up about the noticeboard and observatory history in its spring 2018 e-newsletter, and on p 9 have provided a readable image of the information panel.

Sefton MBC asked the Society to submit their proposals on how we could develop the educational and tourism potential of the Hesketh Park observatory, which have been submitted. Given our long term partnership with Sefton and astronomical knowledge and expertise, they accepts we are best placed to maximise the educational value and interest this subject has to offer. Further, Sefton MBC also indicated they would like FOHG to develop the ground floor area to illustrate the historical meteorological work carried out by Joseph Baxendell and his son.

The FAS has notified its members they will produce legally vetted “generic” documents to ensure societies can conduct their activities, including educational outreach, in a competent, legally compliant, and professional way. These documents can be customised to suit local circumstances and the SAS committee has agreed to base their documentation on them.

To improve our focus on using the Cooke telescope for observing and educational outreach, we have increased our management committee to include Bob Mount as Observatory manager, and Patrick Kiernan to develop Publicity and Outreach. Further, an Observatory sub-group chaired by Bob has been re-established, and includes Mike Dow, Ray Bennion and Patrick Kiernan, plus other SAS members as and when needed. This sub group will be responsible for ensuring only those individuals who have undergone training to use the telescope effectively  without causing damage, can be approved to use it; a requirement Sefton MBC have stipulated. The sub-group will also be responsible for developing an observing programme and recommending specialised purchases that enhance the observing capabilities of the Cooke telescope. Overall, this will ensure the educational value of the observatory can be be fully utilised for the benefit of today’s Park visitors, including local school children and other groups, which was a key requirement of Joseph Baxendell Jnr. when he donated the observatory to the former Southport Corporation in 1901.

A number of members completed the introductory phase of telescope training last summer. Now that the Cooke telescope has been repaired the  programme of telescope user training for members has recommenced.

On Wednesday 26th April 2017 the refurbished observatory was handed back to Sefton MBC by the contractor Maysand. These photographs confirm the observatory is probably now in the best condition since first installed in Hesketh Park in 1901.

For more information about the history of the observatory visit our Joseph Baxendell & his observatory page, and for information on buying and using telescopes visit our Introduction to astronomy page.