Forget sunbathing - sunGAZING is the new summertime hobby!

IF YOU'RE looking for a new hobby to wile away those sultry summer nights, how about a spot of sunGAZING?

That's how stargazers at a Dearne observatory will be spending light nights.

The arrival of British summer time has limited the number of hours the Mexborough and Swinton Astronomical Society telescope can probe the night sky – so they will be showing a flare for watching the Sun

instead!

Chairman Les Marsden, told the Times: "It may be 93 million miles away, but it's our nearest star.

The society will be re-opening the observatory to the general public on Sunday, July 5, for summer viewings.

Les added: "In the summer, people can come and have a look at the sun in real time, and see the flares that lie on its surface.

"We look at it through a hydrogen alpha telescope, which is the safest possible way to look at solar stuff. We will be summer solar viewing on Sundays through to September, after which we go back to night time astronomy."

The JA Jones Hoober Observatory stands proudly on high ground on the outskirts of Wentworth, protected from the light pollution cast by the neighbouring South Yorkshire towns and cities.

The observatory, based on Lea Brook Lane, Wentworth, a quarter of a mile from the towering Hoober Stand monument, was opened on May 8, 1993 to give members of the public the chance to stare into the universe using the facility's high powered telescope.

When positioned correctly, the telescope provides two minutes worth of clear exposure to objects in space.

The building was founded and continues to be maintained by the members of the society formed in 1978 following a merger between the Night Sky Astronomy Club and the Mexborough Astronomy Club. The society celebrated its 30th anniversary on May 21 last year and was congratulated in person by veteran TV space expert Sir Patrick Moore.

In the meantime, the society continues to tour libraries around Rotherham presenting 'static displays' of the solar system, and a nine-metre section of the Sky Lark rocket, which was launched into space on 441 occasions between 1957-2005. The rocket was first launched in Woomera, Australia.

The society also arrange for astronomy speakers to provide weekly talks for club members and the public at Swinton Working Men's club on Thursday's at 7.45pm (subject to availability).

The speakers are drawn from the society's membership, members from other societies, professional astronomers and scientists.

For further details on the Hoober Observatory or the Mexborough and Swinton Astronomical Society, contact Shaun O'Dell on 01709 579529.