Together with Doon Academy, Dalmellington’s well regarded secondary school, and other stakeholders, Craigengillan Estate developed the idea to create an observatory as a visitor attraction, but which could also be used by schools within the curriculum and for scientific observations by Universities.
The project, backed by the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh, was delivered and is operated by a specially formed company with OSCR Charitable status. Funding was gathered from private and public funding and donations.
The Observatory opened in October 2012, featuring an indoor presentation room and a wheelchair-accessible elevated observing deck from which to enjoy naked-eye observing of the night sky. There is a 20” Corrected Dall Kirkham telescope in a 5 metre dome and a 14″ Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope for a more hands-on, open air observing experience.
The observatory is open to the public, amateur astronomers, groups, clubs, schools and universities, with the aim of inspiring people of all ages and all backgrounds with the beauty and wonder of the universe
The SDSO has a mobile planetarium, which can be used to take an immersive planetarium experience out to communities, schools, etc. The planetarium is inflatable, is 6 metres in diameter, and can accommodate up to 40 people comfortably. It offers an inspiring experience, bringing a projection of the night sky that is close to being outside on a clear night in a true dark site. The SDSO can offer various packages for school and other education and community groups, including a lecture/classroom space with astronomically themed information panels with seating for 32 people. They can also offer visits to primary school classes, involving practical activities with meteorite collection and solar telescope observing.
This is a first-class facility, providing excellence for education, research and communities alike, all driven and facilitated by Craigengillan Estate, who have provided much of the resources, ground and drive to see this remarkable project to fruition in a highly sustainable manner.