Isabella Holden Telescope, JHI’s new “planet-hunter” telescope, unveiled.

A new telescope unveiled at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has been dedicated to the wife of local famous astronomer and UCLan founder Moses Holden.

Based at the University’s Alston Observatory, the Isabella Holden telescope sits alongside UCLan’s other, deep-space, telescope, which opened in 2016 and named in honour of her husband Moses, a lecturer who taught astronomy and was a founder of The Institute for the Diffusion of Knowledge (now UCLan) back in 1828.

Isabella, a £50,000 wide-field DeltaRho 350 Telescope, is a “planet hunter” that will allow observers to detect worlds orbiting other stars and at the same time detect stars that vary their brightness to help further understand their life cycles. It will work in tandem with the Moses Holden telescope, which looks at a narrow field of space but in greater detail.

Patrick Holden, the three times great grandson of Moses and Isabella, visited Alston Observatory with his nephew Robert Holden to officially unveil the new addition.

Patrick said: “We are extremely honoured that UCLan has chosen to name this new telescope after our distant great-grandmother. We owe a lot to Moses’ biographer Stephen Halliwell who connected our family with the University during his research. This relationship continues to develop as we honour Moses’ legacy of astronomy education in Preston.”

In 2017 Patrick created and financed the Moses Holden Studentship, which funds bursaries for astrophysics PhD students and has so far allowed five students to further their research.

Professor Derek Ward-Thompson, Director of UCLan’s Jeremiah Horrocks Institute, said: “We are delighted to welcome Patrick and his family back to Alston to mark this special occasion.

“UCLan has a rich history of astronomy discovery and teaching and it’s thanks to Patrick’s generosity that we’re able to attract the next generation of astro talent to the University to continue this.”

Steven Gough-Kelly has just completed his PhD through the Moses Holden Studentship. He said: It’s allowed me to continue my research into the evolution of galaxies, like the Milky Way which change over billions of years.

“Like Moses, I am passionate about making astronomy accessible to the public through engagement outreach events and this is something I’ve done throughout my studies at UCLan.”

The Isabella Holden Telescope will be used by undergraduate and postgraduate students at UCLan, as well as for community events to ensure the wider public also benefit from the technology.

Derek added: “By adding this small but very powerful piece of kit to our Observatory, we will be able to maximise the capabilities of the Observatory in monitoring the night sky as much as possible and advance our studies of the ever-changing views of the universe.

“We have already found a number of planets using the Moses Holden Telescope, including ‘Moses-1’, but Isabella will allow us to find many, many more.

“Moses-1 is a ‘giant’ planet around a distant star, much larger than Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. We look forward to many more exciting discoveries with Isabella.”

Moses, who lived from 1777 to 1864, was a famous astronomer. He gave public lectures in astronomy and optics filling theatres in Preston, across the North of England and the Midlands throughout the 19th Century. He married Isabella in 1815 and they went on to have three children together.

More information about UCLan’s Alston Observatory and the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute is available on the University’s website.

Picture caption: Recipients of the Moses Holden Studentship with Patrick Holden at the new Isabella Holden Telescope.