We were formed on May 21, 1978 as
The Night Sky Astronomy Club
At the end of 1978 we amalgamated with
The Mexborough Astronomy Club
and became the
Mexborough & Swinton Astronomical Society
A name that we are very proud of.
We have had a few different meeting rooms over the years as our membership has grown. Our first room was in the Methodist Church at Piccadilly Swinton, South Yorkshire. We had our very first Open Day there which was a great success and it became an annual event. After 18 months our membership had crown and we needed a larger room. We moved to St Johns Church in Swinton, which served us very well for about two years. In 1980 we approached the committee of the Swinton Working Mens Club (SWMC) to ask for one of their upstairs rooms. Their answer was a positive one and we have enjoyed a very good relationship to this day. We have had to extend that single room by removing the wall between the next door room to cater for the increasing membership. We are now well established in the SWMC and we enjoy our Thursday evening meetings very much indeed. It is help that we can get our beer quite easily. A typical programme for the year is to invite a guest speaker once a month, sometimes a little more frequent, who is an expert in their particular field of astronomy. On the other Thursdays our members present a narrated slide show or some other form of astronomical feature in their own style of presentation.
The first telescope we purchased was a 3" refractor which cost £80 that we thought was a very good prize at the time. We had this scope for some years. We then swapped this for an 8" reflector for which, our then vice-president built a 6 foot dome. One interesting point is that, due to the lack of funds, golf balls were used as bearings to allow the dome to revolve freely.
After a couple of years it was thought to be a good idea to have a president. The first person we asked was the now famous Heather Couper. We visited her at The Royal Greenwich Observatory when she was the director there. She became very busy with her work and we had to find a replacement for the post.
We have all been very involved with the Astronomy Centre in Todmorden. The director there is Peter Drew a well-known activist in astronomy and a first class telescope maker. Peter accepted our invitation to be our president and held the post for many years.
We are pleased, and honoured, to inform everyone that our latest president is the eminent speaker on Victorian astronomy, and many other subjects too, the famous Dr Allan Chapman of Wadham College, Oxford.
'Astromind' & the National Astronomy Quiz
Some years ago 'Radio Leeds Astromind' was born. Our society has taken part for many of those years - give or take a couple - and we are quite proud of the fact that we have been successful in winning the trophy in 1986, '87, '88,'89,'91 and '95. We were also honoured to host the quiz in 1997 when respected astronomer Paul Money took the role of question master.
We would like to extend our congratulations to the winner, Neil Haggarth of Cleveland and District Astronomical Society.
The UK magazine 'Astronomy Now' organised a nation wide quiz in 1989. We are proud to say that we took the first prize of a Silver Platter and £500 by beating the other 31 societies.
From our very early days we have wanted our own observatory and a good telescope. In 1989 we were lucky to gain a small piece of land belonging to Yorkshire Water at a very reasonable annual rent.
Our then vice president, being a draughtsman, drew the plans required and planning permission was given to commence building. As all astronomers will agree finding funding for such a venture is not easy. The first good news we received was from a local builder's merchant promising that they would supply all the material to get the building 'out of the ground'. They also opened a trade account for us with all the benefits it brings, and more. It had been decided that all the labour would be done by the membership - well it does save a lot of money.
The profiles were set 1 April 1990 the first sod was cut the weekend after. For the next two years nothing could stop us - well, almost nothing! In the October of 1992 our treasurer informed us that we were down to our last £100. We badly needed a sponsored event. It only took a couple of days before two of our intrepid, normally sensible members came-up with and idea - to swim the width of Lake Windermere!!! Without relating here the wry comments made by many of us, it was done. There was no waiting until the summer months, the money was needed now. The event took place on Saturday 23 November - it was freezing. But it takes a lot more than just a low reading on the thermometer to stop our members when the chips are down! That one event earned us about £400.
The observatory was opened 8 May 1993 after just two years of very hard work from every member.
Over the past two years we have built a new dome to for our observatory.
We are a society that is always looking to the future. Our aims for the millennium is to have the telescope and observatory fully computerised. The benefits of this are many, not least being able to store the image on disc and scrutinised at a later time. It is felt that this may increase our chances of making a new discovery in astronomy.