York Astronomical Society is hoping to move to a new home.

It has plans to set up an observatory just to the east of the city – and it is inviting people to join them at the site for the lunar eclipse on Friday.

Plans are in with City of York Council to put up the container with sliding roof at Beetle Bank Farm & Wildlife Sanctuary in Murton.

“York Astronomical Society became a charity at end of 2017 and part of the our new direction is to make astronomy more accessible to the people of York,” said society secretary Derek Farmer.

“Our present location is by no means family friendly, so we wanted to start discussions with our landlord regarding using public facilities at the same site. Without any discussion we were given notice to quit after 11 years.”

The obvious choice

The York Astronomical Society’s present home
Once they had to leave their present home at Rufforth, the search began for a new home.

“We identified a very small number of potential sites, but only Beetle Bank Open Farm ticked the boxes and was the obvious choice of our members,” said Derek.

The planning application seeks to relocate a large container with a partially sliding roof and two large telescopes to Beetle Bank Farm. If the planning application goes well they hope to move in early September.

Derek said:

  • The potential stumbling block is the fact that Beetle Bank Farm is in the green belt. However outdoor leisure activities are permitted and you can’t get much more outdoor than wanting to observe the night sky (usually in the winter!).

    Because of the need for relatively dark skies, and needing to be in close proximity to York, it sort of needs to be in the Green Belt.

    If planning permission is refused, it could mean the dismantling of an observatory that has been the focus of a society formed in 1972.

Lunar eclipse event

The observatory container
In anticipation of working with Beetle Bank Farm, the society is putting on a Lunar Eclipse Night on Friday.

Lunar Eclipse Night
  • Fri July 27 @ 7.30pm-10.30pm
  • Beetle Bank Farm, Moor Lane, Murton
  • £8.45
  • More details

It is due to be the longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century – and it could result in a ‘blood moon’, when it turns an eerie red colour.

During the event there will be a talk on the solar system, followed by the opportunity to observe the moon, mid eclipse as it rises in the southeast.


There will also be the opportunity to view Saturn, Jupiter and later on Mars (which is at its closest to Earth for several years). Much later the International Space Station is expected to pass over. Derek said:

  • Members of York Astronomical Society will be on hand, with an array of telescopes to share the splendours of the night sky with visitors.

    We are going to attempt a live feed from Dubai of the moon in full eclipse as it happens.

In the event of bad weather the society has a couple of extra talks and some images to share.