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St Martins Observatory given £2,000 from ISSG Fund

The project to build a permanent astronomical observatory on St Martins has been given a cash boost with a £2,000 grant from the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company’s Community Fund.

The observatory will be built on the vacant field at the rear of St Martins Community Centre. The plan is to construct two prefabricated glass fibre observatory domes, each housing one telescope, as well as a “warm” room containing computers and equipment to “allow remote viewing through the telescopes via a camera link”.

COSMOS, the amateur astronomy group behind the plans, say the donation from the Steamship Group helped get the £79,000 project off the ground.

Chair Val Thomas said: “The money from the Community Fund was the very first donation we received and it gave us a real kick-start. It was only then we realised that someone believed we could achieve our dream for an observatory on Scilly.

“We’ve now got enough money to start work on the project and we can’t thank the Steamship Group enough not just for the donation, but for believing in us.”

COSMOS was later given a grant of £59,000 from the Government's Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) towards the construction of the observatory.

The group was recently visited by TV presenter and bushcraft expert Ray Mears, the newly named Patron of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, during his visit to the island to meet Community Fund recipients.

He said: “This is a really fantastic project and such a worthy cause to benefit from a grant; the Community Fund is an excellent scheme by the Steamship Group to give something back at a grass roots level to its communities, with grants making a huge difference to groups like COSMOS.

“I was enormously impressed by the passion and enthusiasm of the COSMOS team when I met with them, and it’s wonderful to see so many residents of St Martins becoming amateur astronomists and helping to put this island on the map as a centre of excellence for astronomy.”

Val added: “This will be a new resource for our island community, a centre of learning and exploration of our dark skies, for all ages. As an aspiring centre of excellence located in the heart of our unique and protected environment – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) as well as a designated Dark Sky Discovery Zone – we hope to boost rural tourism by encouraging a brand new set of 'astro-tourists' to Scilly.

“Our unpolluted dark skies offer fantastic opportunities for stargazing and exploring space, and we hope to share this wonder of our natural environment with many more people.”

The Community Fund has so far awarded £30,000 to 31 different projects ranging from a set of new judo mats for a club on St Mary's, to a life-saving defibrillator for the Ronnie Richards Memorial Charity in Penzance.

Bids to the Community Fund are open to voluntary groups or charities, schools and education establishments, community clubs or societies, and individuals undertaking not-for-profit projects for the benefit of the wider community.

A member of COSMOS recently said this is a "momentous" time for astronomy on the islands.

Find out how to contact COSMOS through their website at


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