Alloway and Southern Ayrshire FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY Robert Burns Cottage, Alloway, Ayr
| Home | Contact | Events | Publications | Resources | Links | Membership | Interests | Activities | Notices |

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

18 November 2014 - "Scottish Dark Sky Observatory"

On a somewhat stormy night, David Warrington from the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory helped us to imagine the sky as our ancestors' saw it.  Today, light pollution has become such a problem, hiding much of what used to be seen by everyone and was part of their lives. Sites such as the new Observatory that opened in 2009 on the Craigengillan Estate in the north of the Galloway Forest Park are very precious, situated as they are in an area of low light pollution.  The Galloway Forest was the first location in Europe to be designated as a Dark Sky Park which opened in 2009 and has now achieved Gold Tier status.

The Estate was once owned by the McAdam family of tarmacadam fame and the Ordinance Survey map of 1856 shows an old observatory near the site of the new one and the foundations of this still exist.  Construction of the present building began at the beginning of 2012 and opened at the end of that year. It now houses a 20-inch telescope in a purpose-built observatory and a smaller one in a room with a roll-off roof. It is one of only two observatories located in a Dark Sky park and over the next few years all lights
in Galloway, including street lights, will be "dark sky friendly" - and also be cheaper to run...

In addition to their new observatory, they also operate a mobile planetarium which can be taken out for education purposes, e.g. to schools, to introduce topics such as the Planets, Astro-photography with and without telescopes, Galaxies, Nebulae, Noctilucent clouds, Aurora Borealis, etc., that can be seen from the observatory.

David showed us some of the photographs that have been taken and showed how we in the West have adopted the Greek names for the star groups derived from their myths, such as Perseus, Andromeda and so on.  Other cultures have a different view of them and it was interesting to know that what we see as a "Plough" is seen
by the Chinese as a coffin being pushed and as a dancing man by the Inuit.  We went on to discuss the Pleiades or Seven Sisters cluster, found by following Orion's belt to the right to the V-shaped "face" of the constellation of Taurus the bull.  It is conspicuous in the sky at his time of year, often being visible without a telescope, and has been known by our ancestors in cultures around the World as indicated by the many mythical stories built around them.

Pat & John Weston

Older Postings