The Dark Sky Observatory – 1 March 2022
We were thrilled to have Fiona McClelland along to our meeting to provide us with first hand knowledge of the origins and ultimate despoiling of the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory. She explained that the structure was an astronomical observatory located near Loch Doon in East Ayrshire. It was situated on a hilltop site overlooking the Craigengillan Estate and Dalmellington. The site was chosen because it was located in the northern edge of the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park and within the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere, with low levels of light pollution and clear horizon views.
We were shown photos of the observatory construction which commenced building through 2012 and was officially opened by the previous First Minister of Scotland. The building and facilities were expanded in 2017 with the addition of a digital planetarium, officially opened by the lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire and Arran, John Duncan. After opening, the observatory saw visitor numbers increase exponentially, making it one of the top tourist attractions in Scotland. Fiona said it became a four star VisitScotland publically accessible observatory. Key features were two large telescopes capable of observing the cosmos in great detail – allowing people to explore the wonders of the night sky under internationally recognised dark sky conditions
The SDSO was open all throughout the year, with its main aims being to allow people of all ages and abilities to learn and experience the wonders of astronomy and space, and to be a vital educational resource to children in the region.
This wonderful facility suffered a devastating fire during the early hours of 23 June 2021. Said Fiona, the fire is still being treated as suspicious and especially as the observatory was run by a charity, the financial impact and damage caused was extremely significant. However there are currently advanced moves to reinstate this wonderful facility and Fiona added we should watch for more media announcements.
Alec Thomson gave a well deserved vote of thanks