Page last updated at 23:54 GMT, Monday, 5 October 2009 00:54 UK

Dome boost for historic telescope

Cooke telescope
The Cooke telescope was built in about 1845

A 19th Century telescope which was once at the forefront of space exploration is set for a new lease of life at its home in North Lanarkshire.

The 150-year-old Cooke telescope will be rebuilt inside Airdrie Public Observatory later this month.

The instrument, dubbed "the Hubble of its day" is in the final stages of being refurbished.

As part of the project, a new 2.5 tonne copper dome will be lifted onto Airdrie Public Observatory on Tuesday.

Joint curator Paul Clark said: "The telescope was a real Rolls-Royce piece of equipment when it was built by Thomas Cooke around 1845.

"The Cooke was easily equivalent to the Hubble space telescope of today. In fact we can even see the Horsehead Nebula, photographed so spectacularly from space by the Hubble.

Observatory dome
The dome has been refurbished as part of a 500,000 project

"The instrument was designed for viewing the planets and it can see as far as Neptune. The clouds on Jupiter are quite spectacular, as are Saturn's rings."

The work to restore the telescope is being carried out in Ayrshire, while companies from Glasgow and Hamilton have been involved in rebuilding the dome.

Work carried out on the dome is part of North Lanarkshire Council's £500,000 re-roofing project at Airdrie Library.

The authority's lending services manager Catriona Wales said: "The previous dome was made from fibreglass and when we had to replace the library roof it made sense to restore the dome to its former glory, in conjunction with Historic Scotland.

"It has a steel frame with timber cladding and a polished copper skin. In time, that will turn green with verdigris.

"The turning mechanism for the dome is already on the roof. It will be quite a complex operation given its size and weight and coming in at two-and-a-half tonnes, so, the weather conditions will have to be right."

The refurbishment of the telescope and dome are expected to give the instrument another 20 to 30 years of serviceable life.

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