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Look up: The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory

Posted by Katy Peck on 27 February 2020
Related property: Coo Palace
Look up: The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory

Top image: courtesy of Dave Dubya, Wikimedia Commons (cc-by-sa/4.0)

Have you ever looked up and marvelled at the celestial spectacle taking place above your head? If so, Dumfries & Galloway has something just for you.

The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory is an astronomical observatory near Loch Doon, around an hour and half’s drive from Coo Palace. Its position on the edge of the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park means that it enjoys some of the clearest and darkest skies in the UK, making it a fantastic spot for observing the stars. Originally opened by former First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond, it was further expanded in 2017 to include a digital planetarium and is now a popular attraction.

The observatory is equipped with:

  • A roll-off-roof observatory with a 14” Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope, ideal for those looking for a more hands-on experience.

  • A robotic 20” Corrected Dall Kirkham telescope, houses within a 5-metre dome. This can be controlled from a separate control room.

  • A lecture/activity room and an elevated ‘outdoor classroom’/observation deck.

As well as this impressive equipment, the observatory has a small but interesting museum, filled with exhibits such as meteorites and even some moon rock! There’s also a gift shop selling space-themed souvenirs and treats, so you don’t have to go home empty handed.

If a visit to the observatory sounds like it might be of interest during your holiday, the best thing to do is to book onto one of their Night Sky Experiences or Stargazing events. At time of writing, ticket prices start at £16.00 for an adult and £12 for children. During your visit you’ll be given an informative welcome presentation, before being led around by a knowledgeable expert who (weather permitting) will use the two telescopes and observation deck to guide you through the celestial bodies visible that night. These events do get booked up, so be sure to find and book a session in advance using their website.

Please remember that stargazing is entirely weather-dependant, and the Scottish weather doesn’t always play ball! If the weather isn’t suitable, the observatory staff will aim to provide alternative activities during your visit. Please also note that the Scottish nights can be chilly, even on dry summer evenings, so be sure to wrap up warm.

The observatory is open to the public throughout the year, with the aim of helping people of all ages and abilities to learn and experience the wonders of the astronomy and space. If the more seasoned stargazers amongst you would like to visit with your own telescope, there are further facilities available to allow this. For a small fee, you will not only be able to set up your equipment on the site, but also have access to the WC and kitchen.

Please also note that the road to the observatory is rough, unfinished and steep in places. While it is possible to travel by car, please be sure to take care and drive slowly.

No matter if you’re an amateur stargazer or a seasoned astronomer, the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory is a must-visit while you holidaying at Coo Palace. You’ll be amazed by how much there is to discover in the night’s sky, so why not get out, look up and see what you can find!

Katy Peck

Katy Peck

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