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Craigengillan Dark Sky Observatory

June 21, 2011 7 comments

UPDATE: Voting lines are open! Call 08716268875 to register your support! Calls cost 11p per call from BT landlines. Calls from other networks may be higher and from mobile phones will be considerably more. You can vote up to ten times for each project. You can vote for a project from anywhere in the UK. Calls from outside the UK will not be counted but may still be charged.”

Craigengillan Dark Sky Observatory, soon to be located in the north-east of Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park, will open later this year. It is a project by Craigengillan Estate, Renfrewshire Astronomical Society, and Doon Academy, and will be a modern, state-of-the-art public observatory under some of the darkest skies in the UK.

The proposed Craigengillan Dark Sky Observatory

Excitingly this project – or part of it, namely the purchase of a mobile digital planetarium – is one of two projects in the finals of STV’s “The Jubilee People’s Millions“, and between 9am and midnight on Monday 27 June 2011 members of the public will be asked to vote on which project should get funding. If you’re in the UK please make sure you vote!

You can find out more about the observatory, including planning drawings, at the Renfrewshire Astronomical Society website forum.

Craigengillan Observatory Planning Drawing

Touch the Sky: A Planetarium Show for Blind People – Part 1

November 24, 2010 Leave a comment

I was recently awarded a grant by the Royal Astronomical Society to design and create a planetarium show for blind people, something that, to my knowledge, has never been done in the UK before.

I’m only in the early stages of the project, but I am working with a designer Alex Dobbie from the Glasgow School of Art’s School of Design to create a set of “tactile starballs” which will allow blind and visually impaired people to feel their way around the night sky, guided by me in a planetarium environment.

The first mock-up of a constellation (Taurus) for testing

I have years of planetarium experience, having run Glasgow Science Centre’s planetarium between 2004 and 2008, developing many shows for a range of audiences, from young pre-school children to adults, but this show – called Touch the Sky – presents a whole new set of challenges.

I will be working with blind and visually impaired people from Visibility Glasgow in order to test our prototypes to make sure that we get the scale, size, texture and detail right on our final starballs.We’ll be testing the first prototypes next week, and then mocking up some full starballs for further testing.

Once the final models are completed I will have a set of twenty of them, allowing me to run planetarium shows for audiences up to that number. I will be trialling the show in both Glasgow Science Centre and the Royal Observatory Greenwich in January and February 2011. The finished show will be launched later in 2011.

I’ll be blogging throughout the whole project, with details about how the show is progressing.

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