Observatory volunteers’ starring role

Martin Lunn, curator of Astronomy for York Museums Trust, at York Observatory

Martin Lunn, curator of Astronomy for York Museums Trust, at York Observatory

First published in by

ON a good night, you can see Saturn from York Observatory, and now the building is open to the public during the day - thanks in part to The Press.

The observatory, in the Museum Gardens, welcomes visitors every Tuesday and Thursday, from 1pm until 4pm, and every other Friday at the same time, after a successful volunteer recruitment campaign.

The volunteers, who have been trained by the museum's curator of astronomy, Martin Lunn, have been employed to help people explore the building and explain its history to them.

Fiona Burton, volunteers manager at the museum, said: "We have been thrilled by how enthusiastic the volunteers are. The programme has got off to a brilliant start. We are getting more than 60 people visiting the observatory in a three hour session, and they are learning about this important part of York's history. If it was not open, these people would not get the chance to see inside and learn all about it from the brilliant volunteers."

This month, the observatory is also open every Wednesday for Sun Days, during which people can safely observe the closest star to the earth.

The building - which houses the oldest working observatory in Yorkshire - contains a clock that was the most accurate timepiece in York in the middle of the 19th century.

Made by Barraud of London in 1811, it tells the time based on observations of the positions of the stars.

With more inquiries coming in from people eager to volunteer at the observatory, the York Museums Trust is aiming to open the building seven days a week for the first time by the summer of 2008.

Fiona said: "Thousands of people walk past the observatory every year and many are intrigued by what it is and why it is there.

"Our aim is to recruit about 20 to 30 volunteers of all ages and all backgrounds to bring this hidden treasure of York to life all year round."

If you would like to volunteer, email Fiona at fiona.burton@ymt.org.uk.

There will be a number of open evenings and astronomy talks at the observatory in the autumn - see www.yorkshiremuseum.org.uk for details.

Entry into the observatory and to the events is free.

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