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Assheton Astronomical Observatory 1962 - 1965

Images of the moon taken with 6 inch telescopeBackground:

Prior to October 1962 the observatory had been broken into by criminals.   The transit telescope was stolen.  Three concrete brick walls were subsequently built around the transit room, together with a new door.  The new walls to the north and south made opening of the transit slots impossible.   The transit telescope instrument remained missing, although the mount remained.

The main telescope, clock and batteries were in good working order.


The observatory comprised a round wooden building with fully rotatable roof.  The roof could be opened using two doors which gave a gap approx 24 inches wide and the full height of the roof.  The roof was turned by means of a long rope with block and tackle at each end.   One end would be fixed to a hook on the wall and the other end to a hook somewhere around the roof rim.   You needed to move it several times a night.
To the west of the round building and fully attached to it was a roughly square extension housing a transit instrument mount and the clock.  The roof and north and south walls of the transit room had earlier been openable with a slot to enable transit observations to be made.
The observatory was located on its own artificial hill, primarily to eliminate risk of sea flooding.
The main telescope was a 6 inch polar mounted refractor.  It was equipped with a finder telescope, slow motion limited range adjusters for declination and right ascension, clutches on each axis and adjustable balance weights.  The drive system used a wind up weight with a rotary ball governor.  Both axis scales had vernier readouts and the declination axis had a small telescope and light to read the scale at a distance.
Eyepieces were: Large comet x32, Long (faulty) 2.5 inch, Low power x80, Hughgenian 0.5 inch, Hughgenian 0.35 inch, Monocentric 0.5 inch, Hughgenian 6 mm, Hughgenian 0.15 inch,
Accessories were: Sun and star diagonals, dark blue filter (cracked) and medium blue/green filter.
A good solar-prominance spectroscope with prisms existed.  This was on very long term loan from the British Astronomical Association having been donated by Mr J Milton Offord. Asset register number = 49.   This comprised an adjustable input slit, a set of about 6 prisms on an adjustable expanding plate, and eyepieces.  By moving the prisms any part of the solar spectrum could be viewed in detail.  It was brilliant for looking at solar prominences, although it took some skill to get the sun's disk just touching the slit.
A good clock, which needed winding regularly, kept accurate sidereal time.
A Ni-Fe battery which could be taken away and charged every few weeks provided electrical power for lighting.
The camera was a piece of wood cut to fit across the rear of the telescope tube, with a hole in it.   The film was cut off as it came out of a 35mm can and pieces were put in front of a ground glass focussing plate.  The focussing plate was an old glass plate cleaned up, cut to size and ground with carborundum.  It you put the development and fixer trays over on the worktop you could waggle the fresh pictures in the developer etc and get a quick look of how it was going.

Log for 1962:

5 Oct 1962.  Observatory cleaned out and inspected.
5-16 Oct 1962.  Battery charged
7 Oct 1962.  Robbery discovered.  Finder telescope stolen.  Declination telescope stolen.  telescope moved against brakes.  Roof opened.  Door broken down.
16 Oct 1962.  19:30-21:15 Johnston, Trickett, Bieber, Jamieson, Lester, Innes, Mr CS Fayle.
Jupiter, Saturn, Andromeda nebula, Clock checked with Vega.
1 Nov 1962.  19:35-21:00  Johnston, Chesney, Cardwell JR, Tomlinson, Mr CS Fayle, Mr Burns.  Jupiter, Saturn, Andromeda nebula, Clock checked with Vega.  Dumbell nebula.
2 Nov 1962.   19:35-20:30  Johnston, Chesney, Cardwell JR, Lester, Soulsby, Moate, Underwood, Henderson, Sear.  Mr CS Fayle.  Jupiter, Saturn.  Cloudy later.
12 Nov 1962. 19:25-20:45.  Johnston, Bowman, Harford-Cross.  Jupiter, Moon, Moon just past full, Jupiter at 20:00:00  ..  0  ..   max x350.
15 Nov 1962. 16:30-17:45.  Johnston, Mr CS Fayle and Middle 4th Physics set.   Jupiter, Saturn.  Very clear sky.   Hatch latch broken.
19:35 - 20:45  Johnston, Beiber, Hart, Soulsby.  Jupiter, Moon.  Jupiter only two moons visible. max x284. 1 drawing.  Moon 3/4 waning. max x240   2 drawings.
30 Nov 1962.  Clock adjusted.   Now a total of 5 half pence coins on top of pendulum weight.  Time gain over last period was 3m 40 seconds.   Battery needs charging.
3 Dec 1962.  4 more half pence coins added.   Now total of 9 coins.  Time gain over last period was 3m 46 seconds.
5 Dec 1962.  16:00-18:15. Johnston, Hodgson.   16 photographs of moon, drawings done of Mare Imbrum and surrounding mountains,  10 photos discarded; remainder had time exposures of 2 sec, 1 sec and 4 instantaneous.  Instantaneous was best.
11 Dec 1962. 19:30 - 20:00   Johnston, Lester, Soulsby.   Moon.

Log for 1963:

13 Jan 1963. 19:30-22:00   Johnston, Mr EBW Johnston. Orion nebula, Moon, Pliadees, Clock set to sigma Orion (difficult)
16 Jan 1963  14:00 Declination scale telescope given to us by the Police.
17 Jan 1963.  Declination scale telescope installed.  Works properly but requires light and battery box.
19 Jan 1963.  19:00-20:30  Johnston.    M35 40', M37 20', Pliadees 1.5x1deg.  Orion nebula, M33/34, Rigel, Shooting star, Crab nebula, Hyadees, Andomeda.
21 Jan 1963  19:35-20:45  Johnston, Trickett, Bieber, Seaton, Fallon, Soulsby, Mr Gill.  Orion nebula, Mars. Clock set by Rigal.
22 Jan 1963   19:40-20:40 Johnston, Henderson, Soulsby, R Whale.  Orion Nebula.
25 Jan 1963 19:45-20:30 Johnston, Underwood, Soulsby.  Orion nebula, Pliadees.
26 Jan 1963. 8:30-20:30 Johnston.  Photographs  15s, 30s, 1m, 5, 10m.  Focal plane.  Good conditions.   Weight control rod adjusted and found to have cracked - broke off. (Damaged by 7 Oct 1962 robbers perhaps?)
31 Jan 1963.  Johnston.  Finder telescope attached and adjusted.  (Presumably recently returned by Police)
1 Feb 1963. 19:45-20:30  Johnston.  R Whale, Soulsby, Henderson.   Moon 1st quarter.
2 Feb 1963. 18:15-20:45.  Johnston.  Moon just after 1st Q.  Orion nebula, 3 instant photos of moon, 1 photo of Capella to determinne focus.
4 Feb 1963. 19:45-20:45 Johnston, Soulsby, Henderson.  Moon.  Focus tests.
12 feb 1963. 19:45-21:00 Johnston, Soulsby. Mars, Orion nebula, Capella. Focus tests.  Lots of muck on obo floor.
16 Feb 1963.  18:30-20:30.   Johnston, Moate.  Pliadees, Orion nebula, Mars, Capella.  Mars very good, polar cap and various dark patches seen.  photograph of Capella.  Telescope drive is too fast.
18 Feb 1963.  19:45-20:30.  Johnston, Soulsby.  Orion nebula OK, M35 and Mars very good.
19-20 Feb 1963.   Battery charged 2 amps for 24 hours.
21 Feb 1963.  Door hinges repaired.
2 March 1963. 17:00-20:00  Johnston.   Looked for new comet.
18 March 1963. 19:30-20:30.   Johnston, Soulsby.  Mars.
3 May 1963. 19:30-20:30 BST. Johnston, Soulsby.  Moon, Sun with spectroscope. Very good.
28 May 1963. 15:30-16:00 Johnston, Soulsby, Hodgson.  Sun spectra.
22 June 1963. 14:00-18:00 Johnston, Curtis, Lester. Sunspectra. and PROMINANCES!.
23 Sept 1963.  19:30-20:30 Johnston, Soulsby, Henderson, Tomlinson, Fielding.  Cloudy but SE was promising.
27 Sept 1963.  19:30-20:30 Johnston, Fielding, Peacock HT, Soulsby. Moon 1Q+1d, craters good, Jupiter 4 bands   .   .0  ..    One moon very close to primary.  Red spot? very faint.
28 Sept 1963. Film bought in Cleveleys 2/- 20 exposure ADOX17 40 ASA:  to develop at 400 ASA 3 1/2 mins in Unitol 1:9  10%NaOH 1:5 for 4 min, rinse, hardener, fix.
1 Oct 1963.  19:30-21:00 Johnston.   Moon, Jupiter, beta Cass,  Time check.  Saturn no good.
8 Oct 1963.  1930-20:30 Johnston, Soulsby, Underwood, Fayers.  Saturn, Jupiter (+spot) Andromeda nebula.
11 Oct 1963.   19:45-20:15 Johnston, Soulsby, Peacock HT, Saturn, Jupiter, Pliadees, Milky way etc.
13 Nov 1963. 17:00-19:00. Jupiter, complete drawings made. Very interesting, more bands and marked turbulance.  Strong wind caused steay boiling.
26 Nov 1963 19:30-22:40. Johnston. Very good night -0 clear all over- hardly any wind.  10 photographs of moon and 2 of Jupiter.  Jupiter drawn.
7 Dec 1963. 08:15-08:35.  Johnston.  Moon age 23 d approx.   Very good.  First time seen in this position.  No photos possible due to bright sky.  No sun, hazy.
9 Dec 1963 19:30-20:30 Johnston, Crump, Fielding, Tomlinson.  Guided photograph of Casseopia. On same plate (3 from end).  Candles found useful.
13 Dec 1963.  19:30-20:48.  Johnston. Photographs of moon. approx 7 days old. Venus, Jupiter, Pliadees, Hyadees, M37, M35 and M57.  Ring nebula Lyra very good.

Log for 1964:

1 Feb 1964. 18:00-19:00. Johnston, Crump.  Jupiter, Pliadees, Orion nebula.  Echo II satellite visible 17:58-18:06.
19 Feb 1964.  19:40-20:35  Johnston, Henderson, Soulsby, Cardwell EJ, Hill, Flynn. Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Orion nebula.   Moon nearly 1Q.
27 Feb 1964.  19:45-20:35.  Johnston, Hill, Flynn.  Moon (full).  very good between clouds, 10 B&W photos, 3 colour.  Moon 8h old after full.
Summer term 1964. Poor weather for observing.  No time for sun spots or solar spectra.  In preparation for prize day painted walls and part of roof pink acrylic emulsion. Many helpers with cleaning off the old horrible white flaky paint.
24 Sept 1964.  Battery emptied.  About 1500 cc electrolyte required.   1500cc made up using 21% potassium hydroxide with 50g per litre of lithium hydroxide added.
3 Oct 1964. 19:50-20:25   Johnston, Flynn, Barry-Walsh, Richardson, Hill.   Saturn, Jupiter.
9 Nov 1964.  Johnston, Burns, Louden, Braithwaite, Cozens, Richardson, O'Donovan, Hargreaves, Barry-Walsh, Fowler.  Moon has just set.  Cold misty, Jupiter good, Saturn fair. Clock is now OK.   Battery flat due to having been left switched on by A-G.    Distress flare seen 20:45 > 999.
10 Nov 1964. 19:30-20:45.  Johnston, Peacock HT, Peacock GC, Braithwaite, Richardson, Flynn, O'Donovan, Taylor, Hill.  Jupiter, Saturn.
12 Nov 1964. 19:30-20:45.   C Shlamm, Flynn IS, Hill, Pilkington.  Jupiter, Moon 1Q, Pliadees, Rather windy, a little clearly defined cloud.  Key broke in lock.  Will need to get another one cut.
28 Nov 1964.   2100    Bright meteorite seen. SE 60 deg to SSW 0 deg, possibly landed in sea.  Magnitude -1.
19 Dec 1964. Total eclipse of the moon 01:00-05:00. 11 photos, 01:20-04:05.

Log for 1965:

9 May 1965. 21:00-22:00 Johnston, Moon, Jupiter, Mars -poor.  Several nebulae.

Transcribed from original logbook 5 January 2000, by E C Johnston.


In Cleveleys, just down the road from the astronomical observatory, is a company called "General Maintenance and Diagnostics Ltd" who do plastic injection moulding and extrusion and technical support.  They sound as though they would be able to upgrade and refurbish telescope bearings and also electric drive control panels etc.  Modern high-precision VSAT satellite internet dishes are made using plastic injection moulding (e.g. Prodelin and Channel-Master) and the technique is particularly applicable to the new Ka band satellite internet terminals expected in the future.   They also specialise in industrial machinery and compressor repairs, servicing and installation.  Our new large 9m satellite teleport antenna at Bookmans Park has some giant bearings and gears for the azimuth axis and motor drive that may need attention in 10 years time!.    See a high resolution satellite view.

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