A NEW 16-inch telescope has been installed at the region's leading observatory.

Kielder Observatory, in Northumberland, has just spent £10,000 on a new Ritchey Chretein telescope, which uses the same powerful optical system as Nasa's Hubble space telescope.

The new addition means the observatory is now fully automated and is also fully accessible for wheelchair users.

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Gary Fildes, Lead Astronomer of Kielder Observatory, said: "This system makes a real statement of inclusivity from the observatory team.

"It is our explicit wish to provide a safe and caring environment for all who wish to visit us and engage with our universe.

"Systems provided by this new investment mean that we can now reach a wider audience and make astronomy accessible for wheelchair users”.

Kielder Observatory opened in April 2008 with 1,500 visitors in the first year. Since then, visitor numbers have increased and this year more than 23,000 are expected to use the facility to gaze at the night sky.

Northumberland International Dark Sky Park celebrated its third anniversary in December.