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Keele University Reaches For The Stars

Keele University’s observatory is set to be restored in a £700,000 project to create a top visitor attraction and promote astronomy and the physical sciences to students and the community.

The University plans to add new equipment, demonstrations, simulations and exhibition space to make the Observatory, which was built in 1962 and has long been a feature of the Keele skyline, into a regional science visitor centre.

Established to house the historic Grubb telescope – which was built in Oxford in 1873 and used by Einstein on a visit. to Oxford – the Observatory was expanded in the 1970s and now boasts four telescopes.

Members of Keele’s Astrophysics Group, as part of a consortium of universities known as the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) project, last week announced they had discovered three new planets 850 light years from Earth.

Generations of schoolchildren have had their first taste of astronomy at the campus’ Observatory, and University staff plan to forge strong links between the Observatory and the Keele-based Science Learning Centre West Midlands and the University’s Widening Participation Unit to enhance community outreach projects.

The new proposals would afford even more visitors the exciting experience of physical science, including geology, environmental science and weather systems, as well as providing a home for cutting edge research.

Wheelchair access will be improved and the Observatory will be kitted out with up-to-date teaching equipment, such as interactive whiteboards and 3D electronic projection, and a refreshment area.

Professor of Astrophysics Nye Evans said: “The Observatory has long been popular with staff, students and the community, and this project will give Keele an unrivalled centre of which they can be justly proud. The Observatory has made a significant contribution to Keele’s activities over the past 40 years and can now continue to do so into the 21st Century.”

The Observatory is open to the public every Tuesday between 8pm and 10.30pm (irrespective of weather), except the second Tuesday in May to the second Tuesday in August, and on Saturday afternoons from 2pm to 5pm.

Hannah Hiles | alfa
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