The Library That Lends Out Telescopes

By M@ Last edited 70 months ago

Last Updated 13 July 2018

The Library That Lends Out Telescopes

A library near Leicester Square will lend you a telescope, free of charge, for up to 14 days.

Westminster Reference Library will hand over the instrument to anyone who pre-books, and is aged over 18 with a Westminster library card.

It's not what you might expect from a library off Leicester Square. The area is more often associated with stars of the red-carpet variety. The closest many come to astronomy in these parts is to lie in the gutter looking at the stars, perhaps after drinking a quasi-Stella object at the Moon Under Water pub.

Yet the library has strong and unexpected links to stargazing, for it is built on the site of Isaac Newton's house. Newton, who lived here from 1710 to 1727, was the first to construct a reflecting telescope. He maintained an observatory on the roof of his home — back when the skies of London were not so floodlit.

The idea of lending out telescopes comes from America, where amateur astronomer Marc Stowbridge launched a scheme that now runs across 100 libraries. Westminster Lending Library, with its Newtonian links, is an apt place to start a UK initiative. Just bear in mind that you'll need to lug the 8kg instrument home from central London.

For details of how to borrow the telescope, see Westminster Reference Library's website. Look out for regular astronomical events at the library.