Astro tourism boost with funding for major new astronomy facility
07 Sep 2021
A major new radio astronomy facility will be established at Kielder Observatory thanks to funding from Northumberland County Council.
The state-of-the-art radio astronomy telescope will allow Kielder to carry out worldwide scientific research, attract university research into Northumberland and develop its remote outreach activities.
A total of £24, 596 of capital funding was approved for the project at today’s (TUES) county council Cabinet meeting, with further funding coming from the Tanlaw Foundation and the Observatory.
The funding will allow the upgrade of the observatory site so people can access it remotely, enabling many more people to be able to use the telescope than would otherwise be possible and helping to spread the knowledge of astronomy and inspire the next generation of scientists.
The new equipment will help transform space tourism in the region and will allow people who are unable to access the site to operate the telescope and record their observations.
In the first three years of the project 10,000 school children across Northumberland are expected to be able to access the technology remotely. Pupils will be able to access educational programmes on subjects such as astronomy, data science and astrobiology, without having to leave the classroom.
Kielder Observatory contributes approximately £1.2m to the region’s economy and it is hoped that the new equipment will have a positive impact has more visitors access the site remotely.
In Kielder Observatory’s 13-year history, it has expanded at a remarkable rate. Originally opened in 2008 to host a few events a year for a few hundred people, it is now open 360 days a year, hosting 730 events and welcoming over 20,000 people, and working in schools to inspire and educate students.
Cllr Richard Wearmouth, cabinet member for Business and Tourism at the council, said: “We are delighted to be able to support this hugely significant project.
“It will not only open up the wonders of Kielder Observatory to a wider audience but will also help to inspire the next generation of stargazers. It is yet another example of Northumberland leading the way in technology and innovation for the benefit of all.”
Catherine Johns, CEO of Kielder Observatory said: “This funding is critical to achieving our aims and the aims of the Tanlaw Foundation, which wants to inspire people about the wonders of radio astronomy and democratise access to radio telescopes so anyone can contribute to citizen science projects and academic research. We are hugely grateful to Northumberland County Council for their unwavering support of Kielder Observatory.”