Patrick Moores Observatory in Selsey England

Patrick Moore

As I am essentially an observer of the Moon and planets, it may be said that my observatory is of the "old-fashioned" type, and this is no doubt true enough! There are four main telescopes: 15 in (380mm), 12.5in (317mm) and 8.5in (216mm) reflectors, and a 5 in (127 mm) refractor.

The 15 in reflector has a wooden octagonal tube, partly enclosed, and is on a massive fork mounting; there is a revolving head, so that the eyepiece can always be kept in a convenient position, and there are

Figure 15.1 The observatory housing Patrick Moore's 15 in reflector.

Figure 15.2 The top section of the observatory is easily moved by means of its toothed inner ring operated by turning the handle.

three finders. It has a normal electric drive, with electric slow motions, but the tube can be moved by hand even when the drive is running, which is always helpful.

The observatory "dome" looks rather like an oil drum (see Figure 15.1). It was made roomy because there are occasions when television crews are using the telescope, and the entire top section of the building moves round. This is managed by use of a toothed inner circle, and the whole section is extremely easy to move merely by turning a handle (see Figure 15.2).

There is a window in the upper section; this is opened first, and then two sections of the roof can be swung back, by means of a handle, on the supports (see Figure 15.3). The dome is asymmetrical, so that it

Figure 15.3 The open window and roof section.

Figure 15.4 The runoff roof shed with its roof slid back.

Figure 15.5 The runoff roof shed and the 15 in dome.

Green Fibre Glass Shed

Figure 15.4 The runoff roof shed with its roof slid back.

Figure 15.5 The runoff roof shed and the 15 in dome.

is possible to reach the zenith. The dome itself is not driven round, but a slight adjustment every half-hour or so is all that is needed.

There is not a great deal of light pollution (there is sea on three sides of the observatory), and there is only one inconvenient tree which is on adjacent land and which, unfortunately, I have been unable to prune. A second tree, on my ground, once produced a modest crop of pears. One night it obstructed the view of Saturn, and the next day it turned into a small, stumpy tree - which produces many more pears than formerly!

Close by the 15 in observatory is the run-off roof "shed" housing the 5 in refractor (see Figures 15.4 and 15.5). The telescope is an excellent one (the object-glass is a Cooke triplet) and it has been set on a conventional pillar mounting, with electric drive (see Figure 15.6). The original was made of plastic with wooden supports, but has now been replaced with an all-wooden construction. The roof is moved back by means of a chain arrangement - in fact, old cycle chains were used - and when the telescope is to be used, the top sliding roof is supported on an extension.

The third telescope, the 82 in reflector, has a With mirror and a Browning mount, on the German pattern with a massive counterweight. The top section moves round on a rail, and is easy to turn by hand.

Figure 15.6 The 5-in refractor housed in the run-off roof shed.

Figure 15.7 The "decorative" observatory housing the 85-in reflector.

The observatory, originally set up at my old home in East Grinstead, was made to look "decorative" (see Figure 15.7) because in that site the only place for it was in the middle of the front lawn. Certainly it is no eyesore, and it is effective, but it has two disadvantages. First, the glass windows mean that the inside temperature can rocket, and one has to "open up" well before starting to observe. Secondly, entry has to be via the lower section, and means crouching down.

The 12iin reflector is on an altazimuth mounting (see Figure 15.8). This has the obvious disadvantage that it has to be hand-guided all the time, with manual slow motions, and it cannot easily be used for photography. On the other hand it is convenient and simple, and for my limited amount of variable-star work the telescope can be swung very quickly from one side of the sky to the other.

The run-off shed is in two parts, and runs on rails (see Figures 15.9 and 15.10). The two halves are pushed back in opposite directions, and do not obstruct the view of the sky; a two-piece shed of this type is far better than a single-shed arrangement. With a single shed, there must be a door. If hinged, the door flaps. If it is removable, there are problems in replacing it on a dark, windy night; the door tends to act in the manner of a powerful sail.

Figure 15.7 The "decorative" observatory housing the 85-in reflector.

Figure 15.8 The 12^-in reflector on its altazimuth mounting.

The main drawback of a run-off shed of this kind is that it gives no protection against the wind force during observing, and there are also artificial lights to be considered. In my own case there was only one inconvenient street light when I came to Selsey (I persuaded the local council of the time not to put another one on my hedge!) and I have screened this, as shown in Figure 15.10. Also shown are the observing steps for use when the telescope is pointing at high altitude, and a table to hold eyepieces and other materials.

All in all, the observatory suits me well; there are no "high-tech" computers and electronic devices, though no doubt these could be added if need be.

A final word of warning. The 82 inch dome was for a time at Armagh in Northern Ireland (I was Director

Figure 15.10 (opposite) The closed run-off shed, with (in background) the screens used to shield an inconvenient street light.

Figure 15.9 (above) The two-part run-off shed provides an unhindered view of the sky.

of the Armagh Planetarium from 1965 to 1968). When I moved back to England, I sold my house. The purchaser suddenly claimed the dome, on the basis that it stood in the garden. In fact the claim was invalid, because the dome merely rested on a concrete base and was not fastened down (it is so heavy that fixing it is unnecessary), but I did not wait; within

Figure 15.9 (above) The two-part run-off shed provides an unhindered view of the sky.

hours the dome was not only dismantled, but on its way to Selsey. However, do bear in mind that if you sell your house, you should make sure that any astronomical equipment is protected against any last-minute claim.

Chapter 16

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Responses

  • Donald
    Which observatory did patrick moore use in the sky at night?
    1 year ago

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