Steve Owens, member of the IDSP committee, says about the park, "The Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park, established in 2009 by Forestry Commission Scotland, has 300 square miles of superb dark skies—some of the best in Europe. This addition to Europe's only 'gold tier' Dark Sky Park is the first time one has ever been awarded and it comes with the support of the landowners and South and East Ayrshire Councils. This extension of the boundary is a welcome addition to those dark skies and a sign that more and more people are recognizing the value of a truly dark sky. As communities around the Park experience the environmental benefits of dark skies, especially new employment from astro-tourism and a global reputation for the guardianship of something very special, we hope that we will be able to protect ever wider areas through further designations." Steve Owens continues to be an instrumental influence on rising parks applying for International Dark Sky Place status.
The new observatory includes a fully robotic 20" Corrected Dall Kirkham telescope in a 5 meter dome, which can be operated from either of two control rooms, and a roll-off-roof observatory with soon to be installed 14" Schmidt Cassegrain telescope for a more hands-on, out in the open observing experience. It also features a multi-purpose lecture room, served by a WC and kitchen and an "outdoor classroom" in the form of an elevated observing deck from which to enjoy the experience of naked-eye observation. Facilities will be provided for amateur astronomers to set up their own equipment and have access to the WC and kitchen amenities.
Craigengillan Estate owner and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory, Mark Gibson, said, "This is a day of celebration and the achievement of a dream. What we have here is something incredibly precious and incredibly exciting. This is the only public observatory within a 'gold tier' Dark Sky Park in the world. It will inspire people of all ages and backgrounds with a sense of wonder at the vastness and beauty of the heavens and the revelation of man's place within the universe. It is a wonderful project to herald the new UNESCO Biosphere. It brings a reconnection with nature and a sparkling path ahead."
Surrounded by all avenues of support, the SDSO is expected to be exceptionally successful as an educational resources and an economic generator for the community. The Observatory will officially open to the public at the end of October. Details of opening hours and events will be on the website: www.scottishdarkskyobservatory.co.uk
Provided by International Dark-Sky Association
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