October 11 2017 @ 22:51 by Chloe Holmes
Kielder Observatory, now in its ninth year, has established itself as the UK’s number one Dark Sky stargazing haven and visitors from across the world flock to marvel at the inky vistas of Kielder and to listen to the inspirational team of astronomers, headed by Founder Director, Gary Fildes.
The second observatory is currently under construction and has recently received further funding of £50,000, from the Gillian Dickinson Trust, a North East based trust offering support to small charities in Northumberland, County Durham and Tyne & Wear.
James Ramsbotham, Chief Executive of the NECC and a Trustee of the Gillian Dickinson Trust, says “The Gillian Dickinson Trust is delighted to be able to support the Kielder Observatory as it works to inspire young people from across the North East with the beauty and the science of the heavens. Photographing the creative wonders of the universe will capture amazing images whilst also capturing their imagination.”
With other major grants totalling nearly £207,000, received from the Heritage Lottery Fund, LEADER funding, Northumbria Water and Northumberland Council, this further grant is another great boost for the completion of the new observatory.
Work is well underway on the project in the protected Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, which means it possesses exceptional starry nights. The new observatory will be fully accessible and comprise a single storey building housing a fully automated telescope with retractable roof, presentation room, kitchen and toilet facilities. In addition there will be external observation with fully accessible deck areas.
Kielder Observatory’s founder and lead astronomer, Gary Fildes says “The new observatory will be used as an addition to the existing visitor experience. Using high tech research grade instruments and tracking mounts, the facility will be research-ready and able to be used by the professional astronomers. The aim will be to use the technology to spot distant planets around far away stars, known as EXO-planets, do supernova searches and plot asteroids.”
“It will enable the science team to provide even more resources to the community who visit us.Our aim is to enthuse, educate and inspire all of our visitors and with the support of our partners across this wonderful region we will continue to excel.”
The current award winning facility opened on 25th April 2008 with 1500 visitors. In 2017 the observatory will have 24,000 visitors and in the nine years since its opening, over 80,000 visitors have gazed at the skies in wonder in a very special part of the UK. The journey however is far from complete, and the dream is to build upon the foundations of success to date and to build the biggest public outreach observatory and planetarium in the world to continue to inspire, enthuse and educate people from all walks of life. Kielder Observatory hopes the new facility will attract more educational and community groups and state the observatory will be suitable for small groups between 10 and 15 people at a time.The five year plan to build an Astronomy Village, at an estimated cost of £15m, will feature a state-of-the-art 80-seat planetarium and a specially built telescope with a one metre wide diameter.