How UK Astronomy started
UK Astronomy started as one man in a field.
His name was Ross Hockham and all he was looking for was some friends to share his passion with.
The field was Emberton Sports and Social Clubs, where he was spotted one night and invited in for coffee and cake.
Where he was asked ‘Why not do a presentation here?
His first event was a flop! As only he was there.
His second event... he was alone again!
His third and fourth a weekend event.......
there was torrential rain and storms!
No one turned up!
BUT this did not deter him and on his fifth event, at last people turned up to enjoy the skies with him.
His wife asked, 'Why not just make a Facebook group?'
He called it ‘UK Astronomy’ and invited 30 of his unlucky friends.
Six years on, the Facebook group is over 17,000 members strong and Ross now holds events all over Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire. He is regularly joined by his newfound astro buddies who all give up their time freely to help teach schools, community groups, kids clubs, and anyone else who would like to look up or learn about the sky.
Who is UK Astronomy for?
Ross wanted UK Astronomy to be about people like him.
He wanted someone who was a complete beginner and knew nothing about the sky to be able to come along, see and learn about the great sights in our night sky, within a safe and friendly atmosphere for all ages.
UK Astronomy is a place for everyone to get together and find local people in their communities to go stargazing with.
It is for total beginners and pros alike.
What UK Astronomy does
Our charity's Facebook group is full of astronomers from all over the UK who are willing to chat, help and advise you on pretty much any subject.
We post monthly guides about what’s happening in the sky that people may enjoy seeing either with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. There’s something for everyone!
We also run a free monthly photo competition which you can find more details of on this website.
UK Astronomy offers public outreach astronomy talks and private stargazing events throughout Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire from self-taught astronomer Ross Hockham.
If you would be interested in us visiting your school or group please contact us at [email protected] for more details or see the schools and groups page.
We will even just pop round to your house, for a cup of tea and help you with any scope setting up or general interest with your star gazing needs.
Because we want to share this amazing hobby with everyone.....
Meet the Team
Founder of UK Astronomy and “Ross the Boss”
Co- Founder and “Astro Widow”
Dedicated Volunteer and “Galaxy Girl”
My dad bought me this telecope for Xmas about 10 years ago now. Him and me used to fart around together stargazing and doing a bit of astrophotography. We were never great at it and didn't really know what we were doing but it was something we used to do together and it was pretty special.
Three years ago he was killed in a car accident. I was 7 months pregnant with my second son at the time and we named him Orion after my dad's favourite constellation, it was the one we always started with when we were stargazing. I couldn't bring myself to use the scope again on my own after his death as it bought back too many painful memories so I lent it to my cousin who has had it for the last couple of years.
Earlier this year I met Ross through his lovely wife Frankie. He has bought the love of the skies back to me by giving me someone to share it with and I'm so honoured to be part of the UK Astronomy group as well. All of the people who have posted in it, have given me, piece, by piece, the strength to come back to it. The irony is, I have now bought Ross in to the very special place where me and dad used to spend most of our time, camping, star gazing and sailing, Great Moor Sailing Club which has now become UK Astronomy's dark sky site.
Dedicated Volunteer and “ Mr Pickles”
It was the return of Halley’s Comet in 1986 that triggered my interest in the night sky. Aged 15 at the time, I still recall with fondness standing in the garden with my Dad, looking up at a faint fuzzy object in the sky, amazed that I was looking at an icy rock that had been travelling the Solar System for thousands, if not millions, of years.
Since then, my job as an Air Traffic Controller in the Royal Navy has kept me busy, but it has also provided me with some amazing opportunities – in particular, I will never forget seeing the Aurora Borealis (northern lights) for the first time from the fjords of Norway or the opportunity to gaze up at the Milky Way from the middle of the Indian Ocean, away from any trace of light pollution.
It was when my children started to develop an interest in space, thanks in part to Professor Brian Cox, that I decided the time was right to invest in my first telescope – a Sky-Watcher Skymax-127. It was a great starter scope and I spent many nights in the back garden with my family, looking at the craters of the Moon, the rings of Saturn and more distant wonders, such as the Great Orion Nebula. However, when my son Tom and I began to experiment with astrophotography, both the mount and telescope went through a series of upgrades, culminating in my current setup – an Altair Wave 115ED refractor mounted on a computer controlled NEQ6 equatorial mount. I have also invested in a Lunt Hydrogen Alpha telescope for solar imaging and a Sky-Watcher Skymax-180 for planetary imagaing. Since then I have been lucky enough to have had some of my images printed in the Sky at Night and All About Space magazines and have gone on to present talks on astrophotography with my friend Ross, as part of the UK Astronomy crew. It’s the technical challenge that I love about astrophotography – capturing photons that have been travelling through space for thousands of years and producing an image that reflects the true magnificence of our amazing universe.
Dedicated Volunteer and "Dazzle"
Like most boys, I went through the stage of "wow, aren't dinosaurs cool!", then grew out of it, into the next stage "wow, stars and planets are cool!" - Then I never grew out of it!
My parents bought me and Argos bog standard cheapo telescope when I was about 7 and I could just about spot the moon with it, but I was hooked!
Inspired by that, I devoured anything I could get my hands on, dog eared library books were a particular favourite! I once badgered my parents to buy a copy of the Sunday Times, so I could sticker the free moon poster given away that week, with the landing sites of every single lunar mission from the early Soviet probes of the 50s, through to Apollo and up to date (circa 1999). Certifiable statto nerd!
After hitting University and my beloved (almost useless) telescope getting lost in one of many house moves, and nearly growing out of the "phase" , my wife convinced me I should buy a new, more modern telescope. The proud owner of a beautiful, if somewhat creaky Newtonian telescope, I still find myself looking up at the moon from time to time. But now I'm able to show my kids the rings of Saturn, giant storms on Jupiter, the phases of Venus, nebulae that would swallow our entire solar system and, I hope instill that awe and wonder I once had as a young boy, myself. Maybe they won't grow out of this phase either?
And now I also share my passion with others as part of the UK Astronomy crew.
Dedicated Volunteer & NASA Solar System Ambassador
I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Florida watching shuttle launches and staring at the stars. My first visit to Kennedy Space Center happened before I was two, and that's when the space bug bit. I have been a lover of space exploration and astronomy ever since.
I now teach secondary science and am a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador. I found a flyer about UK Astronomy in the library when I first moved to England, and I connected with Ross and Frankie soon after. I enjoy being a part of UK Astronomy and helping to explain science and astronomy concepts and sharing what NASA is up to, especially to students.
Dedicated Volunteer and “Gift of the Gabb”
As a child I was amazed that my dad could point out and name stars and planets. Then at the age of 8 watching Neil step on the moon on the school TV (not live!!) my passion grew.
Aware of this passion my wife bought me a travel scope and so it started again. I now have a Celesteron 8" HD.
When looking online for more information I came across UK Astronomy and found they met in a pub local to me. I went along and was hooked on their vision of bringing astronomy to others. Now I am apart of the team and regularly volunteer at events and enjoy bring my experience and passion to others.
Wil Cheung, Dedicated Volunteer and "Aurora Chaser"
From the age of 7 I remember being fascinated by the Moon. My parents got me a telescope and I never actually worked out how to use it and none of my cousins who I spent time with were interested in helping me.
Nevertheless watching the sky at night kept my passion for astronomy going and I simply absolutely love it and love seeing the reactions of people who look at Saturn or The Moon through a telescope for the first time.
I run an observatory in Northumberland and I help run stargazing events for Northumberland National Park. I first discovered UK Astronomy from a Facebook search and joined the group. I quickly found that Ross and Frankie were great people and genuinely wanting to help others, so I always held the group in high regard.
As a moderator of a few large groups on Facebook I was aware that the UK Astronomy group was accelerating in size and that the team might required some help managing the group so I contacted Ross, asking if he would appreciate me coming on board to which he greeted me with open arms.
I am a proud member of the team and really looking forward to helping support the entire team once lockdown is over.