THE Examiner’s cash giveaway is helping a community group look to the stars.
Huddersfield Astronomical and Philosophical Society received £900 from the fund, to buy a tripod attachment, which enables them to photograph the movement of the stars.
Secretary Marcus Armitage, 38, said: “We were able to buy a special piece of equipment called an AstroTrac.
“It allows us to track the movement of the stars and take really deep photos of the night sky.”
The observatory is based at a former Second World War Observer Corps post at Crosland Hill.
And having been established for 40 years, the Society is enjoying unprecedented support.
It has run telescope-making classes, courses in O-Level astronomy, and beginners’ courses in introductory astronomy.
It has even been the platform for many members to study astronomy and space science at degree level and beyond.
Marcus said: “At the moment we have around 100 members because we are running an adult education course in astronomy, which is proving very popular.
“We attract a good range of people from all kinds of backgrounds, from 18 to 80.
“On Friday evening we have meetings, sometimes at the observatory or in our clubroom on railway street.
“We often have speakers from universities across the country, they are public and everyone is very welcome.
“The university doesn’t do astronomy as a degree so we are the only way to get involved.
“The big observatory is a key attraction.
“It’s a Meade telescope with a 40cm diameter and it’s one of the biggest in Yorkshire.
“It’s excellent because it’s housed in a dome. We do have members of the public in quite often.”
Marcus has a degree in astrophysics and teaches astronomy at Honley High School.
The accessibility of the society is a key factor in its success and it recognises that the fascination youngsters have with the stars and produces astronomers of the future.
“We take all our equipment into schools; classes make visits and Scout and Cub groups come up to the observatory,’’ added Marcus.
“People’s interest in astronomy does go in phases. If something is in the news such as a comet or if a planet is particularly bright it increases people’s curiosity.”
As US president Barrack Obama withdraws the funding from the NASA mission intended to take man back to the surface of the moon, the emphasis on the discovery of space will, at least for the foreseeable future, be based on Earth.
For Marcus this is a shame.
He said: “It’s really sad. They are supposed to be retiring the Space Shuttle and it’s over 40 years since we’ve been on the moon.
“It’s true that it costs a lot of money and it’s not particularly safe but we are the human race and one of the things we do is explore.
“It’s got to happen one day but now it looks like it will be in the dim and distant future.’’
For more about the society go to www.huddersfieldastronomy.org