During a recent visit to the Durham Dales and the North Pennines AONB I very quickly saw, with my own eyes and camera, what a perfect area this is for Dark Skies and Stargazing. The are so many spots to see perfect clear night skies without light pollution as I have said in my previous post on The Night Skies and Stars at High and Low Force.
The next evening was not just for seeing but for learning, lots, as well as seeing. For there is now an observatory deep in the heart of the The North Pennines AONB, taking full advantage of this area simply made for it. Based at Allenheads Contemporary Arts this is a fabulous resource that I could see is going to be a big draw not just for the local community but for many many visitors over time. What a great spot in the world too, overlooking the village of Allenheads.
The observatory is a coming together of many partners. Hosted by Allenheads Contemporary Arts it was developed by the North Pennines AONB Partnership. Paid for by the Heritage Lottery Fund and it is owned and operated by Allen Valleys Enterprise Ltd. Architectural students from Newcastle University came up with a winning design in a competition and Xsite architecture did the construction.
It is a remarkable little building. There is more to think about than you can imagine for a project like this. For example making the roof slide open and closed when required quickly, or how to keep the very powerful and technical telescope, with its magnitude of minute details and settings at the correct temperature.
There is also a side building for those not in the telescope room itself where you can keep warm, learn more about the planets and soon a TV screen that will show what the telescope is seeing next door.
Having just opened I was amazed by how many events there are lined up for a wide area of subjects on space and astronomy. Tonight I was in for a treat as we were having a talk from one of the local Star Guides, Dr Fred Stevenson. The room was full of those eager to listen, learn and see, with the telescope/observatory adding so much extra too. We learnt about Light in Space and the mind was blown by distances and scale. I thought I knew a lot but wow is there so much to be amazed by and to learn. It was fascinating!
You can check out many of the events coming up on their website. I highly recommend you do try to get to one, it is great for all ages. This is not a place you can just drop in on in passing by the way so please book ahead.