Yorkshire Astronomy... Our Story
Yorkshire Astronomy exists to educate, amaze and inspires people to learn more about our universe.
We do this through our education programmes, accessible equipment hire and resources, and community workshops and stargazing events for all ages.
As a species we have lost touch with our night sky - and the British weather doesn't help much.
Many of us have never seen the cloudy band of the Milky Way due to light pollution or rain clouds, but there is a wave of astronomy and space exploration in the news that is feeding the curiosity of families, students and outdoor enthusiasts across the country. This is an exciting time for space exploration and it's important that this fascinating area is accessible not just to those already engaged with science, but to learners of all ages, genders and backgrounds. This is where Yorkshire Astronomy began.
Yorkshire Astronomy was founded by secondary school Physics teacher and amateur astronomer Jon Turner in 2017. Having spent ten years teaching Physics in secondary schools and further education colleges across the UK and Europe, specialising in astronomy and geophysics, Jon realised that his true passion lay in making this incredible world more accessible to the community around him.
Yorkshire is home to some of the UK's most beautiful scenery and dark skies and is the perfect place to discover the wonders of the night's sky, yet without an accessible observatory close by it can be hard for some people to find a way to feed their curiosity. This is where Yorkshire Astronomy steps in.
An interview with our founder, Jon Turner
When did the idea for Yorkshire Astronomy first come to you?
The idea for YA first came to me during my first visit to an observatory. It was such an incredible experience, being able to look at the stars with state of the art equipment in dark and open skies. It's the only time, I think, when you truly feel connected to the entire globe, and to those people who don't only live in it today but to those people and animals who have been living on our earth for millions of years, watching over the same night sky.
The intimacy of visiting an observatory was a wonderful and truly unique moment, and I couldn't help wondering why there were so few people there to experience it. Some reasons came to mind: that observatories aren't often easily accessible, mainly because they have to be fairly isolated to get the best skies possible; that visiting them can therefore be expensive, and that this probably meant it was harder for people to get a continual learning experience, when regular access to equipment and open views was limited, particularly for those living in inner city communities. Observatories offer some spectacular and I would recommend everybody who can to travel to one at some point in their astronomy lives! There are hundreds of astronomical societies set up around the UK, but more often than not these are for older audiences who already have a level of understanding about how to use a telescope and what to look for.
So, it got me thinking - how might I be able to bring the observatory to those who can't make the journey and recreate that magical experience of First Light with those who might never have thought to look up before? How can we encourage people on the path to deep sky astronomy just by getting them to open their back door? These are questions that I hope Yorkshire Astronomy will answer.
What's your fondest astronomy moment?
One of my favourite things to do, something which never ceases to amaze me, is seeing the moons of Jupiter from my front garden (see blog). I remember, from a young age, looking up at the moon with my parents, seeing the orange star in the sky and thinking - is that Mars? But despite ten years of teaching science at school, and covering some astronomy in my Ocean Science degree, it was only about seven years ago when I first started really getting into astronomy, and when I bought my first telescope (now available to hire at Hebden Bridge library!).
What did ten years of teaching Physics tell you?
My teaching experience has taught me that people's knowledge of our planets, environments and immediate universe is fundamentally lacking. I'm amazed every year at how few girls' take physics, and then how interested everyone becomes when we get to the astrophysics and astronomy modules. It made me think - why am I only teaching this for 2 months of the year when I can share it with a wider community all year round?