Barnett Astronomical Society, Chesterfield

Everyone who has seen clear night skies with no light pollution knows that the stars are truly awesome. They’re not just dotted about one here and one there as they appear when you look up from a city street. Rather, there are simply too many to count and they really twinkle in the blue / black night sky.

Chesterfield Astronomical Society has been helping Derbyshire residents to enjoy the beauty of the stars for the last 50 years and to add to their pleasure by learning more about them. Thanks to a contribution of £6,512 from Viridor Credits and the support of Derbyshire Environmental Trust, the society and visitors to its observatory can now follow their interest in astronomy in much greater comfort.

The society's Barnett Observatory in Newbold, Chesterfield was built in 1957 and consists of a rotating dome building housing a William Brown 18 inch (457.2 mm) diameter Newtonian type telescope, equipped with automatic tracking stars. Adjacent to the dome is a meeting / lecture room that accommodates approximately 30 people. There is also a modern 12 inch (304.8 mm) Go-To portable Mead Cassagrain telescope, which can be used outside and two smaller manual and portable scopes for general use.

Approximately 50 amateur astronomers meet every Friday evening for viewings and attend seminars on varied aspects of astronomy. The public is welcome to join in as the society has an open door policy. However, prior to the improvements that Viridor Credits paid for via the Landfill Communities Fund, its facilities were not so welcoming. The meeting room had no toilet facilities, no wheelchair access, problems with security and a leaking roof. The grant from Viridor Credits has enabled the society to repair the flat roof above the meeting room, install an accessible toilet and a new, accessible, secure entrance and doorway.

The society also redecorated the meeting room, refitted and upgraded the outdated kitchen and overhauled the mechanics and mounting of the William Brown telescope. During 2010, the society held a series of events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Barnett Observatory in 1960 and to show off the improved facilities to the local community. Importantly, it will encourage people who are interested in astronomy to make use of the observatory and enjoy the stars to the full.