Presenters from legendary BBC science programme, The Sky at Night and members of the Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society, have named the largest facility at The Kielder Observatory ‘The Sir Patrick Moore Observatory’, in honour of Sir Patrick who died on 9th December 2012.
The dedication ceremony at the UK’s leading public observatory which enjoys England’s darkest skies in Kielder, Northumberland was conducted as filming of a new episode of the programme began at Kielder Observatory.
Jon Culshaw, the famous UK comedian and impressionist who has appeared on many Sky At Night episodes and is a keen amateur astronomer, unveiled a plaque on Kielder’s largest observatory with founder director Gary Fildes. Many of the Sky at Night’s presenters including Chris Lintott and the full production team were on hand to witness the ceremony before filming began.
Chris Lintott, lead presenter on the Sky at Night and an Oxford University cosmologist said: “It's wonderful to have a chance to visit the Kielder Observatory. It's a much loved and important facility, and I know that Patrick would have loved to have visited himself.
“I'm sure he would be proud to know that the observatory had been named in his honour. He was, after all, first and foremost a lover of the skies, and would have enjoyed the idea that the astronomers of the future would be thinking about him while enjoying some of England's darkest skies.”
Kielder Observatory has dedicated its largest ‘turret’, home of one of the biggest public telescopes in the UK, (a 0.5m Newtonian reflecting telescope), to Sir Patrick. It is one of two permanently mounted telescopes at Kielder each housed in separate facilities at the the Observatory, and part of its large telescope collection which is regularly used by the public.
Gary Fildes, founder and director of Kielder Observatory said: “What a huge privilege this is. When I started work on Kielder Observatory I knew how important astronomy was to the public but not how successful it would become. In our first four years we have had over 40,000 visitors and I bet every one of them was here in one way or another, because of Sir Patrick and the Sky At Night. To be recording new programmes here is special enough, to have the opportunity to recognise a giant of public astronomy more so.
“The new Sir Patrick Moore Observatory is home to our largest, most hands on and perhaps our most romantic telescope. It’s one of the few places in the world where the public get their hands on a professional standard telescope and directly observe the wonders of the universe, under real dark skies. It’s amateur astronomy in professional facilities.
“The whole team here has been inspired by Sir Patrick. Kielder Observatory may not have happened if I hadn’t watched Sky At Night all those years ago and I think all of us would say the same thing. We’re very proud to carry on Sir Patrick’s work and to welcome many hundreds of thousands more people to his observatory and the subject he devoted his life to.”
The Sky At Night recorded its March episode at Kielder which will feature observations of a large asteroid DA14 as it travelled, closely but safely, past earth. DA14 is 45m across and passed closer to the earth than the moon, and closer than some satellites orbit.
The main programme will be about ‘The Moore Winter Marathon’ a challenge to see 50 of the winter sky’s most striking objects, a challenge that was devised by Sir Patrick Moore. Objects that will be observed by telescope, binoculars and the naked eye include supernova remnants, areas of star formation, star clusters, distant galaxies and Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system.
Both events took place with a number of amateur astronomers and members of the public that had booked to visit the Kielder Observatory present. Anyone wishing to visit the Kielder Observatory must book via its website www.kielderobservatory.org.
The Kielder Observatory was built in cooperation with the Kielder Partnership and Forestry Commission.