May 10, 2016

Watching space from inside papier mâché


You know that really small planet that strolled across the Sun yesterday? I watched that happen from Godlee Observatory.

The Observatory is bang in the centre of Manchester and is run by a society of wonderfully committed space geeks. Their world seemed full of pin-sharp futuristic science and equipment held together with gaffa tape.

Picture: David HartleyThe observation room itself is tiny - just 11 people in there at a time - and my favourite fact about its construction is that the dome is made from resin-coated papier mâché.

"So we're inside a giant Frank Sidebottom head?" I said to the space guy, who responded with a polite smile.

We saw the Sun through a filtered telescope. We saw Mercury dwarfed by sunspots. We saw plasma flares bursting from the Sun's surface.

And we saw a timeline on which was printed, on bleak black, the best novel title ever: "Universe eventually cold and dark". Ah space, destroyer of hope.

If you're in Manchester, go learn about space in its observatory.