A SUPER-powerful £200,000 telescope has been unveiled in Lancashire dedicated to a renowned astronomer and writer.
The highly specialised 0.7m diameter mirror Altitude- Azimuth reflecting telescope has taken pride of place at the University of Central Lancashire’s Alston Observatory.
The telescope has been dedicated to Moses Holden, a lecturer who taught astronomy and was a founder of The Institute for the Diffusion of Knowledge (now UCLan) back in 1828.
It is the largest telescope of its kind at a university in the north of England and the third largest in the UK.
Professor Derek Ward-Thompson, director of UCLan’s Jeremiah Horrocks Institute, said: “This is such a unique telescope because of its sheer size. Where a smaller telescope can see planets and the moon, this can see distant galaxies, nebulae and ‘deep sky objects’ so it’s very exciting. Throughout our extensive tests we have already taken detailed shots of the Moon, Orion, Jupiter, and some spiral galaxies. In one picture we have seen a so-called ‘jet’ from a black hole at centre of a distant galaxy.
“It’s also special because it will be used by our undergraduates rather than postgraduates and PhD students. It’s a huge draw for new students to know they will be using such a fantastic scope on a regular basis for their undergraduate studies.”
In addition, local community groups will have the opportunity to use the 2.1-metre-high scope, with its Nasmyth focus.
He went on to say: “Astronomy is very popular and as such we do a lot of outreach work with schools and children’s clubs, such as the Brownies and Cubs, but also with local astronomical groups and societies. This new telescope means we can show even more of the universe to lots of interested parties.”
A plaque was unveiled by his biographer Stephen Halliwell.
Created by Planewave, in America, and imported by Green Witch, the telescope was delivered to the Alston site in August . It was delicately craned into the building in two sections before the installation took place over the winter months.
It was mounted on a solid concrete plinth, based on foundations more than a metre underground, and isolated from the rest of the building to avoid vibrations. The telescope ‘tube’ is constructed of carbon-fibre rods supporting the secondary mirror while the primary mirror sits in a yoke mount allowing the telescope to rotate both horizontally and vertically.
Moses Holden was born in Bolton, in 1777. He gave renowned lectures on astronomy, which were first given in the Theatre Royal, Preston, in 1815. He died in Preston in 1864, aged 86.