Young Ashfield astronomers - the Astronauts of the future?

A young Astronomer uses the big telescope at Sherwood Observatory
A young Astronomer uses the big telescope at Sherwood Observatory

A bracing breeze had cleared the clouds above Ashfield to reveal the sparkling night sky - almost perfect for stargazing at the Sherwood Observatory.

Perched on a hill on Coxmoor Road, Sutton the building was a hive of activity on a Wednesday evening.

Young voices echoed around the building as the 1st Forest Town Beaver Scouts anticipated having a first hand peek at the Universe via the observatory’s 61cm Newtonian reflector.

The youngsters aged 6-9, were already enthusing about the planets, the Milky Way, the stars and the Moon.

A video lecture showing the phases of the Moon was soon in full swing in the meeting room adjoining the Observatory.

Gordon Smith, a member of the Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society for 16 years said: “I am giving the Beavers a talk on astronomy - The Moon, the Solar System, meteorites, the International Space Station, the planets that comprise the Solar System and constellations.

It will be very good for them when they are cubs because it should lead them to their first Astronomy Badge.”

After the talk, youngsters trooped upstairs packing the dome of the observatory and queued to climb the short staircase up to the telescope.

Mum Marie Hickling had brought her daughter Phoebe, 9 to the evening, a week after her eight-year-old son Joshua. She said: “My son came last week and he really loved it. He almost spoiled it for his sister . He came back knowing all the constellations and the like and was telling her about it before she had the chance to see for herself.”

Eight year-old Edward Bentley of Berry Hill, Mansfield could just about reach the eyepiece of the telescope, which was trained on the Orion Nebula, a place where new stars are born.

“I counted 11 stars.” He said.

“There 11 young people here today, we have been coming here for the past month, said Group Scout Leader Kath Erridge.

“They get to experience something they normally wouldn’t do at school.

“Scouting is all bout giving experiences they wouldn’t normally encounter. These kids have had a fantastic time tonight.”

After the youngsters left for the evening, members of the Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society took their place to attend a lecture on astronomy in education.

Society member Val Barker, said: “It is wonderful. Sometimes when people come here they know nothing at all about astronomy.

“Even if it is just looking at the moon they are often hooked straight away

“It is a very impressive place and it’s available free to the community.

“Hopefully these young people will gain an interest in the subject, get their badges and who knows, perhaps some of them will become the astronauts of the future.”

The next public open evening at the observatory will be on the 5th of April.

There will be a talk on an astronomical topic, opportunities to view the moon and astronomical objects through the society’s main 61cm Newtonian reflector and a variety of smaller telescopes (weather permitting).

Volunteers will present an introduction to finding your way around the night sky with the naked eye and binoculars.

Visitors can see short video presentations on astronomical topics, displays on the solar system and beyond, astrophotography and the society itself.

Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society can be contacted on 01623 552276. Visit its website on

Captions: nmac-astronomy9(3): Sherwood Observatory

nmac-astronomy6: Group Scout Leader of 1st Forest town Beaver Scouts, Kath Erridge

nmac-astronomy4: A young Astronomer uses the 61cm telescope at Sherwood Observatory.

nmac-astronomy1: The Ist Forest Town Beaver Scouts ask questions about astronomy at the Sherwood Observatory

nmac-astronomy9(2: Members of the Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society

nmac-astronomy5: The 1st Forest Town Beaver Scouts queue for the telescope.