Swinton starman receives top award

STARGAZER Ernest Richardson has been rewarded for more than ten years recording heat activity on the surface of the Sun - all from an observatory in his back garden!

The 81-year-old has made more than 2500 ‘sunspot’ observations since 1999 from a powerful telescope dome in the back yard of his home on Piccadilly Road, Swinton.

Ernest is one of only about 80 astronomers worldwide who record sun spots - which are cooler areas on the star’s surface that show up as black dots when looking at them through a telescope.

He has spent 12 years sending monthly reports of the Sun’s activity to the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO).

The AAVSO have now sent him the Solar Observer Award in recognition of his contributions.

In a covering letter from their base in Massachusetts, Director Arne Henden, said: “On behalf of the AAVSO, and personally, I thank you for your valuable astronomical contributions to solar astronomy and to the AAVSO.

“I wish you continued enjoyment with solar observing and look forward to receiving more of your observations.

“Good observing and clear skies!”

Mr Richardson said: “It’s nice to be recognised for all the reports I’ve sent them.

“It is just a hobby which has grown and grown.”

He added that he was late comer to the world of astronomy.

“I first started when I was 47. I originally got a telescope to look at ships when I was at the coast, but I turned it up to the Moon one day and saw the craters and mountains. That is what got me interested.

“I get to see all kinds of things. As well as Sun spots, I see explosions and flares coming up off the surface.”

To allow him to view the sun safely, Ernest’s telescope has a solar screen which blocks out the light and heat by 99.999 percent.

He is a qualified astronomer was a founding member of the Swinton and Mexborough Astronomical Society but left in 1982, four years after it formed, to take a job on the Solar Section Comittee of the British Astronomical Association.

In addition to observing, he also has an impressive collection of around 500 photographs of the planets which he took through his telescope.

He added: “I’ve got some of them framed and up in my house, but I’ve also given a lot away to schools and other such places.

“I’ve been all over the World taking photographs and observing the planets, including America, South Africa, Germany and many other places.”

And despite his advancing years, Ernest has no plans to stop.

He said: “I thoroughly enjoy it and I’ll carry on doing it as long as I an able to.

“As soon as the Sun comes up each morning I’m straight in the observatory.”