Stargazers in Bury St Edmunds hope to see Athenaeum’s observatory reopened to the public

The Athenaeum Astronomy Association watch from the Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds as Mercury pass

The Athenaeum Astronomy Association watch from the Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds as Mercury pass the Sun. - Credit: Archant

A newly-formed stargazing group hopes to see Bury St Edmunds’ observatory at The Athenaeum opened to the public once more.

The Athenaeum Astronomy Association watch from the Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds as Mercury pass

The Athenaeum Astronomy Association watch from the Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds as Mercury pass the Sun. - Credit: Archant

The Athenaeum Astronomy Association has only met a few times but gained publicity on Monday after it helped passers by in Bury’s Abbey Gardens watch Mercury travelling across the face of the Sun.

Richard Young, the group’s director, is keen to see the observatory become an addition to the town’s rich offerings to the public.

“The observatory really wants restoring,” he said. “There was no astronomy club in this part of the country. We don’t know of an open-access club, so we’ve started one.”

The group has had around eight meetings so far, timing the get-togethers around celestial events that can be viewed through a refracting telescope.


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Pressing an eye to the telescope on Monday brought home the scale of the Sun as Mercury – 3,000 miles in diameter – appeared as just a fleck on the lens compared to the size of the Sun, which in itself is millions of miles beyond it. Mercury passing across the face of the Sun in view of the Earth is a very rare occurrence.

“It’s going to do it 13 times in the 21st century,” said Dr Young. “Not all of them will be visible in the UK.”

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He reiterated the group’s desire to get public access to the Athenaeum’s observatory.

“One of the things we’re doing at the moment is to look at what work would need to be done to give us permission to take the general public up there,” he said.

Anyone interested in joining the group should email athastroassoc@gmail.com

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