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The Lockyer 6¼-inch refractor (circa 1871)

Rebuilt by Thomas Cooke 1871 and restored by the Observatory in 1995, it marks the start of Solar Physics research. 


The telescope incorporates the lenses and other parts of Lockyer’s original 6-inch refracting telescope with which he started his ground breaking solar research. The restored telescope is set up in the Mond dome and used for public viewing on clear nights. On sunny days it displays sunspots by projection on to a screen. The telescope is an instrument worthy of the highest national and international esteem. 

This is the telescope with which Lockyer made his most notable discoveries as an amateur. It was restored to full operational use, by John Pope and Jack Wickings of the Society, and has been in public use since Spring 1996.

Norman Lockyer had parts of this instrument from about 1865. He borrowed the objective lens from Thomas Cooke and made his own telescope by mounting the lenses in a papier mache tube which he suspended from a wooden frame. This arrangement was used for his work on Mars, the making of accurate Lunar maps on a scale many times larger than had been previously attempted. Most of his work on the solar spectrum, including the discovery of the element helium, was carried out with this self-built arrangement.

The instrument in its present form was constructed by Thomas Cooke in 1871 using the pieces that Lockyer already had in his possession.

Lockyer had the instrument at his homes in Wimbledon and later at West Hampstead. After he became professor of astronomical physics at South Kensington, the instrument was first installed at the Solar Physics Observatory for a while, then at his retreat at Westcliffe-on-Sea (Kent) before bringing it to Sidmouth in about 1912. Here it was set up at his home at the bottom of the hill. It has had several adventures before its return, restoration and installation at the observatory on Salcombe Hill.

The instrument was rated by Lockyer "second to none" and is the principal instrument for public viewing of the Moon and planets. On sunny days, an image of the Sun is projected on a screen to show any sunspots.

The Lockyer 6¼-inch refractor is the restored Cooke telescope.



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