The Astronomy Section of La Société Guernesiaise (the local studies society) is the astronomy society of Guernsey. Founded in 1972, it is an active group of about 60 members, and welcomes anyone with an interest in astronomy, whether beginner or experienced.
The Section has a fully equipped roll-off roofed observatory building with a computerised 16-inch Meade SCT reflector and 5-inch Takahashi refractor mounted equatorially. In addition, the Section owns an 8-inch Celestron SCT and Skywatcher 12-inch Dobsonian on altitude-azimuth GOTO mount, and a Skywatcher 80mm Esprit refractor and HEQ5 GOTO equatorial mount which is used for astrophotography.
On site we also have a meeting/club room which is used for weekly meetings and public/school outreach.
Members have many interests, including: the planets, comets, deep sky objects (e.g. galaxies and nebulae), double stars, celestial mechanics, computers, photography, imaging and astronomical history. Many are relative beginners, ready to learn from others. If you have the slightest interest in astronomy then the Astronomy Section is for you!
The Section is a member of the British Astronomical Association, and the Federation of Astronomical Societies.
Informal meetings are currently held fortnightly on Tuesday nights (see our Calendar page for upcoming schedule) at the Section's Observatory at Rue du Lorier, St Pierre du Bois, starting at around 8.00 pm. Members observe with the telescopes if it is clear, and if not can talk about astronomical matters, have a cup of coffee or tea, read magazines (all the major popular astronomy magazines are available) or books from the Section's extensive library. Books, magazines and videos may be borrowed by members free of charge.
At 9.00 pm, unless the telescopes are in use, there is usually a round-table discussion on a chosen subject, led by one of the members. Plans for the Section’s various outreach activities are also discussed. Occasionally a more formal meeting may be held with lectures, sometimes by visiting astronomers. Every year, in August, we hold a barbecue on a night when the Perseid meteors are near their peak, followed by a meteor count.
We run a number course throughout the year for both section members and the general public.
To find out about upcomming course please follow our EventBrite page here
Some of the previous courses that have been covered are.
Introduction to Star Gazing
All you need to know about getting started with viewing our night sky using star charts, star hopping & stargazing apps.
All about the solar system how our star formed, the planets came to be where they are and the further reaches of our solar system.
All about Guernsey's famous astronomy from earliest neolithic man through to our very own David le Conte
Observing is carried out during our Tuesday meetings, weather permitting. Qualified members have free use of the telescopes. Observing is sometimes carried out on other nights, when weather permits, and especially when there are significant astronomical events. We also meet on the last Saturday of the month, if clear, for observing and imaging. The Section has a very active imaging group, and equipment specifically designed for astrophotography.
Visitors and educational outreach activities
We are keen to stimulate an interest in astronomy within the community, especially the young. The Observatory is open to the public on certain evenings during the year (see our Events page for details). We ask for a donation (eg £2.00 adults, £1.00 children) to help the Section's running costs and to provide new equipment.
We welcome groups at the Observatory, by prior arrangement. Contact the Activities Coordinator via email to arrange a visit. We also give talks to local schools and groups, and have assisted Scouts and Guides with astronomy badges, as well as those participating in the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Educational materials are available, and we have a collection of publications suitable for research. You can view past outreach events in our gallery section here.
We run a six-week “star gazing” course annually (February/March) at the Observatory, as well as Astrophotography courses from time to time; further details can be obtained on the Events page.
For public events and visiting groups please view our risk assessment and guidance for visitors on our Health & Safety page link
Youth group leader:
“Thank you for such an enjoyable visit to the observatory. We were so lucky the clouds cleared just in time for us to see a bit of the universe through the telescope. Both parents and children thoroughly enjoyed themselves as well as learning a lot about our solar system. The island is lucky to have such a fantastic facility manned by volunteers such as yourselves.” Small child: “Thank you for showing us the Moon, Mars and Satan.” Small boy: “I have a star named after me. Its name is Leo!”.
The Section has been active in encouraging a reduction in the adverse effects of lighting.
The Section is consulted from time to time on matters such as sundials, and was closely involved in the design of the Guernsey Liberation Monument. In August 1999 the Section was involved in the organisation of the Royal Astronomical Society's National Astronomy Meeting (NAM99), which was held in Guernsey. The Section was also heavily involved in arrangements for observations of the total eclipse of the Sun in Alderney on 11 August 1999.
Section members are happy to advise on the acquisition of telescopes and binoculars for astronomical observing, and to advise on their use. From time to time we have held a telescope clinic, where people can bring telescopes to the Observatory for assistance.
The site and buildings
The Section's Observatory is located at Rue du Lorier, St Pierre du Bois, Guernsey, about 100 metres up the road from La Houguette School. It was opened in April 1991 by Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest, and a further roll-off roof building was opened by the late Sir Patrick Moore in 1993. The main building was constructed in 1943 as part of the German Mirus gun battery complex.
It is contains a meeting room suitable for up to 20 people. An adjoining room contains a library and basic kitchen facilities. The nearby telescope building has a motorised roll-off roof. It houses the 16-inch Meade reflecting telescope and 5-inch refractor.
Externally there is a concrete pad with electricity supply, for placing telescopes, especially the 12-inch Skywatcher Dobsonian on altitude-azimuth GOTO mount. Space for additional telescopes is provided by a couple of patio slabs as well as the grassed area.
A more detailed account can be found under our articles section or by clicking here
In 2022 we completed a rebuild of the main observatory building. This involved removing the previous structure and erecting a bespoke wooden observatory with a roll-off roof with an increase footprint allowing for a more comfortable viewing area for both members and visitors.
Telescopes & Accessories
- 16-inch (40 cm) LX200 Meade computerised catadioptric telescope, permanently mounted on a concrete pier in a building with a roll-off roof.
- 5-inch (12.5 cm) Takahashi refractor, mounted on the 16-inch telescope.
- 12-inch Skywatcher Dobsonian on altitude-azimuth GOTO mount.
- Celestron Nexstar 8SE SCT GoTo telescope.
- Skywatcher Esprit 80mm triplet refractor with flattener.
- Skywatcher Startravel 120mm refractor.
- Skywatcher Startravel 80mm refractor.
- Celestron Astromaster 130 Newtonian reflector.
- Heliostat for solar observing: 6-inch (15 cm) diameter, 70-ft (21 m) focal length, producing an image 7 inches (18 cm) diameter.
- Skywatcher HEQ5 GoTo mount.
- Skywatcher EQ5 manual mount.
- Variety of eyepieces, field flatteners, etc.
- Bahtinov focusing masks.
- FLI CCD camera, with flip-mirror filter holder.
- Philips Toucam webcam.
- ZW Optical ASI 290 mono planetary camera and filters.
- Starlight Xpress Oculus All-Sky camera.(Click here for live images.)
- Star Analyser SA-100 grating for spectroscopy.
- Celestron NexYZ Phone Scope Adapter.
- Various eyepieces, filters, camera adapters and other accessories.
- Hard landscaped areas for setting up observing/imaging equipment, with external power supplies.
- PC computers with astronomical software and Broadband Internet access.
- Ceiling-mounted projector for presentations.
Members receive an annual Astrocalendar giving monthly star charts and details of planet positions, meteor showers, eclipses, etc. The Section's Newsletter, Sagittarius, containing news and articles on astronomical subjects, is published once a year. Members can use the Section's telescopes, after training. Members can also borrow books, magazines and videos from the Section's astronomical library.
How to join
First, do come to a meeting or two as our guest. Come along whenever the Observatory is open. Or contact one of the officers (see below).
If you decide to become a member you will need to join La Société Guernesiaise (current subscription rates can be foundhere). There is an additional small subscription for the Astronomy Section (currently £15.50).
Astronomy Section contacts
Sections of La Société Guernesiaise are led by Section Secretaries, the Astronomy Section Secretary is supported by a Committee, the Officers of which are:
|Section Secretary||Jean M Dean||Contact Form|
|Honorary Treasurer||Steve Bougourd||Contact Form|
|Membership Secretary||Anthony Nel||Contact Form|
|Sagitarius Editor||Tom Harvey||Send Email|
|Group Visits||Contact Form|
|Equipment Officer||Allan Phillips||Send Email|
|Website & IT||Owain Catton||Contact Form|
The Observatory telephone number is 264252
(The local Guernsey telephone numbers are given. From the UK precede the number by 01481, from other countries precede it by +44 1481)
La Société Guernesiaise
The headquarters of La Société Guernesiaise is at: