Nostalgia: Memories of Scarborough Planetarium

I have come across a 2008 story about Scarborough Planetarium on your website.

I have some memories of this because of my involvement in spaceflight analysis which started in 1969.

The owner of the planetarium was Mr J (James, I think) Alan Pilkington and I got to know him because he compiled the Table of Earth Satellites, which was then distributed by the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough.

I think the first time that I met him was in the summer of 1971: I then lived in Bradford and I often took a week’s holiday in Scarborough during July. The first time that I met Mr Pilkington and visited the planetarium was while Mr Pilkington was living in Scarborough. Later that year, he moved from Scarborough to Calverley, between Leeds and Bradford.

As I recall, following his move from Scarborough, the planetarium was only open during the summer months and even then only during the week, since Mr Pilkington would return to Calverley for the weekend.

One sad feature of the planetarium was its “shop”, in which Mr Pilkington would sell publications - often available free of charge from their sources - for inflated prices.

Russian booklets that cost 50p, which you could buy from the Novosti Press Agency, would be sold for 10 times that price: issues of the Goddard Space Flight Center’s Satellite Situation Report (free from NASA) would be sold, as would the free-from-source Royal Aircraft Establishment Table of Earth Satellites.

All of the planetarium presentations were pre-recorded and from the American accents they were commercial recordings, so Mr Pilkington would simply operate the planetarium’s projector rather than have any creative input to the programmes.

I lost touch with Mr Pilkington in 1975 due to professional disagreements and so I do not know how the planetarium fared after that.

I know that Mr Pilkington continued to live in Calverley until he lost the editorship of the Royal Aircraft Establishment Table of Earth Satellites in 1984, after which he seems to have disappeared.

I have no idea if he is still alive.

Phillip Clark

Elphinstone Road


East Sussex