A Day at the Observatory


*A great bunch of amateurs!

I had a brilliant time at the Norman Lockyer Observatory today – (Saturday). A great gathering of amateur astronomers indeed …. and of course the word amateur is by no means derogatory; these days, so much important work in Astronomy is being done by astronomers who are not paid – they just do it for the love of pure science. In these days of Science being perversely used to try to prove a point, it’s very refreshing to feel this honest spirit around – much as in Victorian times, when many of the great leaders in science were funding their own researches themselves.

Well, I think Sir Norman Lockyer (active from around the end of the 19th century) was strictly speaking both a professional and an amateur astronomer; he shares the honours for discovering solar prominences, and was the first to show that the Sun is made of Helium. And it is his legacy that sits on top of Salcombe Hill just beside the lovely old seaside town of Sidmouth. It’s very nearly sunk into ruins more than once over the last hundred years, but the people of Sidmouth, thankfully, are very tenacious, and in spite of being abandoned by Exeter University, just would not let it go. Today it supports a truly thriving and energised community of observers, astrophotographers and enthusiasts for the subject.

I was asked to cut the ribbon on their brand new venture, the Connaught Dome … and … well, this is the scene a few moments later. I am waving to the assembled millions (well, hundreds) who attended the ceremony … With me in the dome is NLO official David Strange, who organised my visit, and very well organised it was.

Brian in Connaught Dome with David Strange
Brian in Connaught Dome with David Strange

Cheers ! – and thanks to all down in Devon who were so kind to me, and to Sara, who took this photo.

I should explain that this observatory has unique significance for me – which made this visit all the more special. Why ? Well, more later.


Well, OK – here’s a hint …

Sidmouth observatory Norman Lockyer Photo by BM
Sidmouth observatory Norman Lockyer
Photo by BM
Bri in Bracken - Photo by Harold May
Bri in Bracken – Photo by Harold May

Both of these photos were taken in 1960.


© brianmay.com