New Scilly Observatory to open in April
The new Community Observatory on St. Martin’s will open to the public from April 1.
The observatory - one of the most remote and certainly the most south-westerly observatory in the UK - is the culmination of more than three years of work and fundraising by the COSMOS Committee, a group of amateur astronomers based on St. Martin’s.
COSMOS said that the new facility "aims to be a centre of excellence for astronomy on the Isles of Scilly, to provide a valuable and educational resource for the islands’ community and its visitors".
They added: "It adds another dimension to the way visitors can enjoy Scilly’s unspoilt natural environment, with the islands enjoying some of the darkest skies in the UK."
There will be two regular public openings: Tuesday evenings (7.30pm - 9.30pm, though this may be later during the lighter summer months) and Friday afternoons (12pm - 4pm). In addition, the Observatory aims to be open to the public for at least one additional night per week, dependent on the weather conditions and astronomical events of interest. Additional events will be advertised locally and on the group’s website and Facebook page nearer the time. Private groups wishing to visit, who request additional openings, will be considered, subject to availability and advance booking.
The Observatory is staffed by a team of dedicated volunteers, all members of the COSMOS committee.
COSMOS chair Valerie Thomas, who was born and raised on St Martin’s, said: “We are extremely proud to be able to announce the opening of our Community Observatory. This follows some three years of hard work by a dedicated, passionate group of islanders who have now realised their dream to make available a facility that is open to all - islanders, visitors, young and old, amateurs and professionals.
"We are indebted to the help and support on our journey: the talks by visiting amateur and professional astronomers, freely given; from small to very generous donations, and not least the acquisition of a large grant from The Rural Development Programme for England. The state of the art equipment is designed to enrich the enjoyment and knowledge of our superb dark skies here on the Islands, and we hope will be an enduring asset to our community.”
The Observatory has two Pulsar observation domes, each housing a reinforced concrete plinth on which telescopes are mounted. One dome contains the group’s largest telescope, a Meade LX200 ACF 14inch UHTC GOTO, capable of deep sky viewing and with auto-tracking.
The Observatory’s other telescopes, interchangeably mounted in the second dome, are an Altair Wave Series 130mm F7 ED Triplet Refractor and a Coronado Solarmax III 70 BF 15 Hydrogen Alpha Solar Telescope.
The site has a warm room, with a capacity of 30. This houses computer and imaging equipment, with the ability to stream images live from the telescopes.