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Major radio facility to transform astronomy at Kielder

A visitor attraction under some of the finest dark skies in Europe has taken delivery of a new telescope which will boost space tourism in the North and make distance learning about the Universe possible.

The five-metre diameter Spider 500 radio telescope has been installed at Kielder Observatory, which is set in the beautiful Kielder Forest, in Northumberland.

Radio astronomy was responsible for the discovery of the Big Bang theory and, as it detects radio waves coming from space, it is weatherproof, which means observers are not reliant on clear skies.

Catherine Johns, CEO of Kielder Observatory, said the move into radio astronomy would allow Kielder to contribute to worldwide scientific research and attract university research into Northumberland as well as developing its remote outreach activities. It could also boost tourism in and around Northumberland by approximately £150,000 per year.

She said: “This investment will make a dramatic difference in our offering as it means people will be able to access the observatory remotely. A school child in Sunderland or Darlington, for example, will be able to experience Kielder without stepping foot here.

“We can use it for citizen science projects and engage a wide variety of audiences in STEM, inspiring and illuminating career pathways and providing student placements and apprenticeship opportunities. It’s an exciting time in the history of Kielder.”

The acquisition and installation of the telescopes was mostly funded by The Tanlaw Foundation and Northumberland County Council. The Tanlaw Foundation will use the telescope to reach a wider, hitherto excluded audience to observe the universe and create distance learning in astronomy, data science and astrobiology.

The observatory, which attracts thousands of visitors per year, has a team of astronomers, guest speakers and volunteers who discuss and make observations about the Universe through a series of public events.

Photo by Daniel Monk – the new Spider 500 radio telescope has been installed at Kielder Observatory.