Government funding for “dark sky” observatory

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Star gazers will be in the best place in Scotland to see sights like the Northern Lights

A NEW “dark sky” observatory – the first in Scotland – is to be built in Ayrshire

The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory will create a state-of-the-art visitor attraction for budding stargazers and astronomers inBritain’s only dark sky park.

The new facility will be located in Galloway Forest Park, one of only 10 parks in the world to be recognised by the International Dark Sky Association.

The new observatory builds on the park’s “dark sky” status and offers visitors a chance to observe the Northern Lights, the Milky Way, planets, comets and shooting stars.

The £680,000 project is receiving £94,000 in funding from the Scottish Government.

As well as attracting astronomers, the facility will be an educational resource for schools, colleges and universities. The project hopes to capitalise on the recent popularity of the BBC’s Stargazing Live programme, which captured the imagination of almost 3.8 million viewers this month.

The site chosen for the observatory is within a pristine landscape and has been confirmed the best possible by the Royal Observatory, with the darkest skies of the Dark Sky Park.

Energy, Enterprise and Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing praised the project.

He said: “Scotland has made an immense contribution to shaping the modern world through science and research excellence, and this new observatory builds on our reputation as a hotbed of innovation and ideas.

“The creation of a state-of-the-art, first of its kind inBritain, observatory will attract stargazers and astronomers from near and far. Almost four million people tuned into the BBC’s Stargazing Live programme and it is hoped that this new observatory will capitalise on the success of the show and capture the imagination of people of all ages.

“The Galloway Forest Park area enjoys some of the darkest skies in the world and this new facility will showcase the area’s stunning natural scenery and resources to attract new visitors and investment to Ayrshire.”

Observatory Manager Cath Seeds said: “We have worked so hard over the last two years to generate the enthusiasm and raise funds for this project. It is wonderful that we can come together today and officially start the construction of the Observatory.

“Often, the science can feel overwhelming, so we want the observatory to break down these barriers by bringing together astronomy, nocturnal natural history and arts and crafts inspired by the night sky.

“We also want to play a key role in the future development of this area. Great things are occurring and great talent is abundant. Our role is to improve science in our community, whether by inspiring the next generation of scientists or providing the spark needed by an inventor to produce something truly remarkable.”

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