Sherwood Observatory

Sherwood Observatory

Infobox Observatory
name = Sherwood Observatory

caption = View of Sherwood Obseratory looking north.
organization = MSAS
location = Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England
coords = coord|53|06.5|N|01|13.340|W
altitude = 187.9 m (616.5 ft)
established = 1970
telescope = 0.61 m Newtonian telescope reflector
Sherwood Observatory is an amateur astronomical observatory in Nottinghamshire, England, owned and operated by Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society. The main dome is 6.5m in diameter and houses a 0.61 m Newtonian Reflecting telescope. There is a club meeting room that hosts society meetings and lectures and also serves as a lecture theatre for the public on open evenings. The complex has workshop, kitchen, office, storage and toilet facilities and is one of the best amateur astronomical facilities in the United Kingdom.

Early History

The first meeting of Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society (MSAS) took place in 1969 and early meetings took place at the premises of a local engineering company. The founding members quickly formed a plan to build an Observatory and by 1972 a piece of land had been purchased at one of the highest points in Nottinghamshire. Site preparation commenced and the foundations were poured in 1975. All building work was done by members with the majority of materials being reclaimed from local demolition sites.

The dome itself was designed with the help of the Nottingham University Architects department. The main ring-beam and aperture guides for the dome were made from 4x2 inch steel channeling, bent to shape by hand with the aid of a large hydraulic jack normally used lift heavy goods vehicles. Thirty supporting ribs were then made from T-section aluminium, and 120 sheets of aluminium all individually cut and shaped by hand were fixed to the structure by over 5,000 riviets, each of which was drilled and punched by hand.

With a roof on the lecture theatre the building was now weatherproof and work could commence on the electrical systems and the telescope itself. The main frame of the telescope was built by members from scaffold tubing and mounted on an equatorial fork driven by DC electrical motors for tracking the stars. The main mirror was ground at the observatory by a home made mirror grinding machine over a period on 4 years, however this piece of glass was damaged when sent away for aluminising. After a period of fundraising a mirror was purchased and installed in the telescope with Messier 42, The Orion Nebula being the target for first light.

Sherwood Observatory was officially opened in 1986 by the Astronomer Royal Professor Sir Francis Graham-Smith who in was later made a patron of MSAS.


The main instrument at Sherwood Observatory is a Newtonian telescope on an equatorial fork mount. The telescope was initially constructed as a Nasmyth reflector but due to collimation problems it was converted in the 1990s to the simpler Newtonian configuration.

The telescope has stepper motor drive control with an electrical focusser. The dome is electrically driven and will move automatically as the telescope tracks across the sky. Various cameras can be attached to the telescope to record images and video and display what the telescope sees on a 2 metre wide projector screen in the lecture theatre from where the telescope can be controlled.

Public Access

Membership of MSAS is open to all who have an interest in astronomy. However for the members of the general public who wish to visit and observatory, listen to an introductory talk and (weather permitting!) see through a telescope MSAS organises a number of open days and evenings through the year. For more information refer to the MSAS website from the link below.


The members of Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society also run short night school classes at Sherwood Observatory for members of the local community who wish to find out more about astronomy and the Universe that we live in. Information on the dates for the next course can be found here:

Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society

External links

* [ Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society] - official site
* [ The Federation of Astronomical Societies]

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