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29 August 2014

The Godlee Observatory: Manchester Astronomy Society since 1903


Godlee Observatory
on the roof of the Sackville Building
Credit: Michael Oates
As part of a trip to Manchester to visit a friend, I decided to visit the Godlee Observatory on the roof of the Sackville Building at the University of Manchester, England. 

This time I came unannounced. I found on the Internet that The Manchester Astronomical Society weekly meeting was on a Thursday, I taught: "Well, I arrive on a Thursday so I'll be there!"

The Manchester Astronomical Society founded in 1903 aim to encourage the study of astronomy for both the newcomer and the seasoned observer alike. Every Thursdays they meet in the Godlee Observatory where they present lectures on astronomy. Weather permitting you may also observe using the telescopes until as late as people want to stay.

As soon as we step into the Observatory, This typical English lad named Anthony "Tony" Cross Astronomy Outreach spokesman extraordinaire, welcomed me and my travel companion. I have to say I visited many Observatories in the World, Tony is probably my favorite Astronomy Outreach spokesman of all time. His swag ways, his competent speech and the knowledge of his astronomy is unprecedented.

The Godlee Observatory speaking to Tony
Credit: Milla Mäkilä
 As for the Godlee Observatory it is a beauty in itself. Straight  on the roof of the Sackville Building in the center of the city  at the University of Manchester, the Dome sticks out as a  tower from an other era in the midst of a newer Manchester.

 This Observatory is peculiar in 3 ways:
 1. The Grubb Dublin double telescope.
 2. The Dome is made of Papier-mâché.
 3. The founder Francis Godlee. Generous in time and money  to the less fortunate ones.



Howard Grubb and the double telescope at Godlee Observatory.
Sir Howard Grubb (1844-1931) was an optical designer from Dublin, Ireland. He was head of a family firm that made large optical telescopes, telescope drive controls and other optical instruments.
The Godlee double telescopes (made by Grubb of Dublin), which have been in regular use since 1903 are formed by an 8" refractor and a 12" Newtonian reflector.
The refractor is used mostly to view the moon and brighter objects, including the Sun projected as a 15" disk onto a screen fastened to the tailpiece. A cable link to a webcam attached to the telescope in the observatory on the floor above allows members to view the moon and brighter planets, collectively, via the digital projector.

What comes to mind when you think about Manchester. Football? Oasis? No! The weather!
The Dome of the Godlee Observatory was constructed with an unusual material. Papier-Mâché!
Papier-mâché is a sturdy material for construction, It seems to be a good idea to build a "lite" dome in this material. But the only problem is the rainy weather of the UK. It seems also that it has lasted for half a century. Since the 1950's renovations have been made to include fiberglass on the exterior of the dome.

8" Refractor Grubb Dublin @ Godlee Observatory
Manchester, England
Credit: Milla Mäkilä
The Observatory in 1903 was presented to the city of Manchester by Francis Godlee. A wealthy and generous man who love to give his time and money for the less fortunate. The Manchester cotton trade at this time was thriving, and the firm of Simpson & Godlee, cotton manufacturers and calico printers, steadily expanded. Its offices and warehouses moved to the centre of Manchester, and further mills were acquired at Bolton and at Bury. By the turn of the century, there was a workforce of some 1500 people. The firm's prosperity owed much to Francis Godlee, not only to his good business sense, but also to the sympathetic consideration he showed for his employees. He became chairman of the firm in 1914 on the death of William Simpson and continued to run the business through the difficult war years and after the war until a few years before he died.

Before I leave you with links to the Manchester Astronomical Society,  Godlee Observatory, the Grubb Dublin Telescope, Howard Grubb and Francis Godlee, I want to thank President Anthony Jennings, Marion and the Manchester Astronomical Society for their hospitality.  A special Thank to Kevin Kilburn to include Me as a speaker for their Power point presentation on our Sun. Thank you also for featuring my Gif animation of the green flash of our setting Sun I filmed last March in Tenerife, Canaria Islands. A huge Thank you  to Tony Cross for the gran tour of the Godlee Observatory. I know now where the Sun rises and where the Sun sets. Cheers!

Manchester Astronomical Society
Facebook page of the Manchester Astronomical Society

About Astronomy Club Toutatis, Kustavi, Finland