An astronomy station in Dalmellington –the first of its kind in the UK – might sound like light years away, but work has started on the new Scottish Dark Sky Observatory.
Fergus Ewing, MSP, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism cut the first turf at the star attraction, due to open at Craigengillan Estate in September.
It is hoped that the observatory will attract visitors from all over the world, increasing tourism and helping to regenerate an area which has witnessed the demise of a once thriving coal industry.
And it is thought that it could attract even more visitors, following recent reports of telescope sales soaring by 500% due to the popularity of BBC2’s Stargazing Live programme.
Observatory Manager Cath Seeds explained that the project aims “to bring astronomy to all”.
She said: “Often, the science can feel overwhelming, so we want the observatory to break these barriers by bringing together astronomy, nocturnal natural history and arts and crafts inspired by the night sky.
“We also want to play a key role in the future development of this area.
“Great things are occurring and great talent is abundant.
“Our role is to improve science in our community, whether by inspiring the next generation of scientists or providing the spark needed by an inventor to produce something truly remarkable.”
“We have worked so hard over the last two years to generate the enthusiasm and raise funds for this project.
“It is wonderful that we can come together and officially start the construction of the observatory.”
The centre’s location in Galloway Forest Park means that it will enjoy some of the darkest skies in the world - the park itself being one of only ten in the world to be recognised by the International Dark Sky Association.
Countless stars, the Milky Way, shooting stars, planets, comets and the Northern Lights are all visible from the area, and the observatory will provide a spectacular opportunity to view and appreciate the night sky through state-of-the art telescopes and imaging equipment.
As an important educational resource it will benefit the local community and a much larger public audience of stargazers, amateur astronomers, schools, colleges and universities.
But viewing will not merely be restricted to night time - daytime visitors can enjoy livetime links with observatories in Australia and other parts of the world.
A major part of the observatory’s work will also involve raising awareness of light pollution and the impact that it has on our view of the night sky.
Energy, Enterprise and Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said: “The creation of a state-of-the-art, first of its kind in Britain, observatory will attract stargazers and astronomers from near and far.
“Almost four million people tuned into the BBC’s Stargazing Live programme and it is hoped that this new observatory will capitalise on the success of the show and capture the imagination of people of all ages.
“The Galloway Forest Park area enjoys some of the darkest skies in the world and this new facility will showcase the area’s stunning natural scenery and resources to attract new visitors and investment to Ayrshire.”
Councillor Iain Linton, Depute Leader of the Council, said that the observatory would be a huge asset for the area in terms of the tourism and educational benefits it will bring.
He added: “It should attract not only local visitors, but many tourists and keen stargazers from around the world who I’m sure will be extremely impressed with the new facility.
“This in turn will act as a catalyst for the regeneration of the area and will really put East Ayrshire on the map.”
Do you think this is an exciting project for Dalmellington? Let us know here at s1dalmellington.