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The award-winning Kielder Observatory in Northumberland will mark its 10th anniversary on Thursday 26 April with the opening of a new observatory.

The £250,000 Gillian Dickinson Astroimaging Academy, which sits alongside the existing Kielder Observatory, will be the new home for the Observatory’s education and outreach work, which aims to give children and young people the chance to experience the wonder of the Universe.

Kielder Observatory sits inside Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, Europe’s largest area of protected night sky. Since opening in 2008, more than 80,000 people have visited the Observatory to join talks, activities and telescope observing sessions celebrating the night sky.

Gary Fildes, founder and CEO of Kielder Observatory, said: “Our vision for Kielder Observatory when we opened was to let people experience the magic of our Universe. 10 years on we’ve welcomed more than 80,000 people to the Observatory and I’m delighted we’re opening a second facility that will mean more people can enjoy the beauty of the night sky.

“The new observatory will be dedicated to teaching, learning and research. We want to enthuse the next generation about astronomy and let them see, first hand, the amazing world around them.

“In an age where many of us are looking down at computers, phones and games consoles, this is a chance to look up and marvel at the Universe.”

The Gillian Dickinson Astroimaging Academy features fully automated telescopes, a retractable roof and presentation room. As well as hosting educational and community events, its high tech research grade instruments and tracking mounts will allow professional astronomers to spot distant planets around far away stars, conduct supernova searches and plot asteroids.

The new observatory has been funded by the Gillian Dickinson Trust, National Lottery Funding through the Heritage Lottery Fund, LEADER funding, Northumbrian Water and Northumberland County Council.

Northumberland’s largest manufacturing employer EGGER (UK) Limited also supported the new observatory – donating wood-based structural materials for the building and decorative laminate flooring.

Alexander Dickinson, Trustee of the Gillian Dickinson Trust, said: “The Gillian Dickinson Astroimaging Academy will be a Centre for Excellence for ‘Art in Space’ providing a place for children and young people to explore and learn about our Universe by promoting art in space to inspire, educate and motivate young people.

“Kielder Observatory is one of the most popular visitor attractions in the UK and the introduction of the new observatory is a wonderful way to celebrate its 10th anniversary. We’re delighted to support the project and the fantastic work of Kielder Observatory.”

Peter Standfield, Chair of Trustees at Kielder Observatory, said: “Creating a new observatory dedicated to learning and outreach has been a long held ambition for Kielder Observatory. We’re all delighted to see it come to fruition and look forward to welcoming our first visitors.

“I’d like to thank all our funders and supporters for their generous contributions to the project as we look forward to another fantastic 10 years at Kielder Observatory.”

Sir Arnold Wolfendale, 14th Astronomer Royal, opened Kielder Observatory on 26 April 2008. Located just a few miles from the Scottish border in Kielder Water & Forest Park, Kielder Observatory sits inside the 572 square mile Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, officially recognised by the International Dark Sky Association as Europe’s largest area of protected night sky.

Kielder Observatory runs events throughout the year, including Aurora Night, Family Astronomy and Night Sky Safari. Its expert astronomers uncover the secrets of the Universe as part of fun, interactive sessions that include talks, telescope tours, demonstrations and stargazing.

It’s expanding education and outreach work in schools across the North East is improving young people’s knowledge of astronomy and cosmology. Kielder Observatory’s inflatable mobile planetarium is visiting schools all over the region to support science teaching and excite and enthuse students about astronomy. It’s hoped more schools across the country will have the opportunity to host the planetarium in 2018.

For more information visit, www.kielderobservatory.org

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