Northumberland’s Kielder Observatory have recently invested a further £10,000 in a Ritchey Chretein 16” telescope, which means the facility is now fully automated and is also fully accessible for wheelchair users.
 
The new telescope utilises the same powerful optical system as the Hubble space telescope, Nasa’s 11 tonne space telescope. 
 
Gary Fildes, Founder Director and Lead Astronomer of Kielder Observatory says  “This system makes a real statement of inclusivity from the observatory team. It is our explicit wish to provide a safe and caring environment for all who wish to visit us and engage with our universe. Systems provided by this new investment mean that we can now reach a wider audience and make astronomy accessible for wheelchair users”.
 
With the new equipment now in place, it will be particularly attractive and appealing for imagery of the night sky use, providing even more educational and research use.
 
David Burdus, access consultant, says ” I visited the new facility following the installation of the telescope as viewing the night sky through a powerful telescope has been an ambition of mine for years now, so when an Observatory right here in Northumberland rang me to have a look, I couldn’t believe my luck! On arrival the observatory was level deck access with parking by the door.  The views were everything I had hoped for and more – crystal clear and breath-taking!  So often venues are easy to get into but the facilities aren’t. Well done Kielder Observatory and I look forward to further visits including to the new observatory which is due to open later this year.”
The current facility opened on 25th April 2008 with 1500 visitors. In 2017 the observatory expect over 23,000 and in the eight years since its opening, over 80,000 visitors have gazed at the skies in wonder in a very special part of the UK. The journey however is far from complete, and the dream is to build upon the foundations of success to date and build the biggest public outreach observatory and planetarium in the world to continue to inspire, enthuse and educate people from all walks of life.
 
As Northumberland International Dark Sky Park celebrated its third anniversary in December, research shows that astro-tourism is developing into a heaven-sent boost for the county’s visitor economy. Market research carried out after a dark skies autumn and winter marketing campaign, led by Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, found that 63% of respondents had visited the county between October 2015 and February 2016, compared to 9.5% the previous year. Earlier this year, satellite maps of England’s light pollution and dark skies released by the Campaign to Protect Rural England showed that Northumberland is the darkest national park with 96% of the area having pristine night skies.