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Observatory nearly ready to open

Nebulae and super-novas could soon be visible from Moffat's new community observatory

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By Donald Turvill
Observatory nearly ready to open

MOFFAT is set to look to the stars in 2021, as a new state- of-the-art community observatory nears completion.

The £34,000 project, funded by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), has been masterminded by local semi-retired lighting professional James Paterson alongside the town’s astronomy club and Moffat Community Council.

The idea for the community observatory came after Moffat’s unique stargazing position was officially recognised in 2015, when the town became the first outside of America to receive an International Dark Sky Association (IDA) award.

Following three years of extensive planning and searching for a suitable site, the team has now constructed two log cabins in a field south of Moffat Academy that will house a three-metre diameter observing dome and professional telescope capable of viewing deep space objects like nebulae and super-novas.

Despite facing pushbacks and delays caused by coronavirus this year, a reduced team has continued putting the finishing touches on the project, installing more astronomical equipment and ensuring the space is wheelchair accessable.

Mr Paterson, an IDA member and author who has led the project, said the telescope “is now being used within the limited bubble of the astronomy club construction team.”

Discussing how the facility could be accessed by locals in the future, he added: “Plans will include a booking system on the club website and access for pupils from the adjacent Moffat Academy, which had an astronomy club 40 years ago, will also form an essential part of the ongoing educational outreach. With WiFi capabilities, it may even be possible in the future for the pupils at Moffat Academy to view the night sky from their classroom.”

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