The Chesterfield Astronomical Society

Chesterfield Astronomical Society

The Chesterfield Astronomical Society was formed over 50 years ago and is located in Newbold, Chesterfield at the Barnett Observatory which was built over a three year period and was completed in 1960. It is a modern, fully equipped facility.

We are a non profit, registered charity organisation.

Whether you’re new to astronomy or well versed, we welcome visitors of all ages to come along and experience the wonders of the night sky. We are open every Friday from 8pm and are wheelchair friendly.

In The Dome

Next to the lecture room is our huge 18″ reflector telescope (that’s its diameter not its length!). According to the Sky at Night magazine, this is the 9th largest amateur telescope in the UK!

Have a look at the observatory photo galleries found in our gallery to get an appreciation of how big this telescope is.

The telescope is motorised, but not to make it easier to move, it’s so well balanced it can be moved with just a couple of fingers. but so that it keeps moving in the opposite direction and at the same speed as the Earth spins on its axis.

The reason for this is simple. Everyone knows that all the stars move all the time but that’s down the Earth moving, so if you want to look at a star for a long time in a telescope, you need to keep the telescope synchronised with the Earth’s movement.

You might not think you’d want to look at any object in space for long but you’d be surprised at how much detail you can see through the telescope. When you start looking at something like the moon or Jupiter or Saturn or a deep space gas cloud, you really want to take your time to absorb the beauty and detail before you.

When you visit the observatory, you’ll get the chance to learn as much as you want about the history of the telescope and the people who built it.

Chesterfield owes a huge debt of gratitude to Horace Barnett and his family and friends who were affectionately referred to as the Newbold Nutters because it was such a big undertaking that few believed they would succeed in building the observatory.

Other Equipment

Apart from the main telescope, the Chesterfield Astronomical Society who look after the facility provide other equipment for its members to use, including a solarscope. Our solarscope is designed specifically to look at the sun through a very clever filter. This allows you to see much more than just the bright yellow disk we think of when we bring an image of the sun to mind.

Have a look at the photos in the solar gallery to see how stunning the sun looks through our solarscope.

We also have the capability to do a spot of radio astronomy. This is a specialist area of astronomy that uses an aerial and radio waves to capture radar-like readings on a computer of objects entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

This can be used during meteor showers to record the number of meteors and shows what happens to them. Most simply burn out but a few explode and this is captured on the software. Results are shared with the British Astronomical Association to help them analyse meteor showers.

Our Smaller Telescopes

There are a number of other telescopes owned by the society including an advanced ‘goto’ telescope that uses computer technology to automatically move to stars and deep space objects of the astronomer’s choice. This way, everyone, no matter what their knowledge of the skies may be, can locate and look at specific stars, planets, galaxies and nebulae.

Before the arrival of computers it took a lot of knowledge and skill to locate many deep space objects but now, they can be found in moments simply by selecting them from a catalogue and pressing a button!

If you want to capture images of your favourite astronomical objects, the society owns cameras and attachments specifically designed to work with telescopes and telescope mounts. To get a feel for what can be done with a camera and a telescope, have a look at the photos in our gallery, taken by our members.

How The Observatory Is Cared For

Grants from organisations, contributions from local societies, donations from the public and the membership fees willingly paid by our members (often along with other occasional donations that are made without fuss) have, along with work carried out by local tradesmen made the Barnett Observatory a place that Chesterfield is proud of.

It is that continuing level of support that will ensure the observatory survives long into the future to benefit many generations to come.

Thank you to everyone, our members, our neighbours, the local community, our sponsors and the local media for all you do.

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