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Cowshill residents transform shed into stargazing centre
VILLAGERS are hoping to make the most of their dark skies by converting a shed - complete with retractable roof - into an observatory from where they hope to make great astronomical discoveries.
Residents in Cowshill in upper Weardale have been learning about the science from a local expert over the past few months, and their enthusiasm is such that today (Monday, October 14) they will officially open their own stargazing centre.
Ian Reedman from the Village Hall Committee, which has organised the project, joked: “We would love to find a whole new planet, it would have to either be named Heather, after our chairman, or Cowshill.”
He admitted that their kit shed, which has been adapted to have an opening roof is not quite on the same scale as Jodrell Bank, but will serve their purposes.
“It is basically a shed with a retractable roof, but it is going to be an excellent resource for us and hopefully it will encourage many more people to just look up and see what is going on in the sky.”
Graham Relph, an astronomer from Whitley Bay who holidays in the nearby village of Rookhope, has been teaching the amateurs all they need to know about observing the solar system.
The group, which started with more than 40 people and now has around 20 dedicated members, will meet on the first Monday of every month to scour the skies with their new telescope with a 400 times magnifier.
Mr Reedman said: “We are very fortunate in Weardale in that we have very little light pollution, and therefore excellent views of the night sky so long as it isn’t cloudy.
“Graham was showing us some pictures he has taken of the Milky Way from Weardale and the definition is extraordinary.
“From here we shall be able to see all of the planets at various times of the year, it is going to be very exciting.”
The astronomy group received £1,600 from the Weardale Action Partnership to buy an £800 telescope and contribute towards the construction of the observatory in a field near the village.
The astronomy group are also working with the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty partnership, who earlier this year designated five spots as Dark Sky Discover Sites, areas perfect for star gazing due to a lack of light pollution.
Mr Reedman said: “We will meet once a month, but Weardale being Weardale it will probably be cloudy on those nights, so people can book the observatory for their own stargazing sessions.”
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