The public observatory, dedicated to outreach in astronomy, is situated on the banks of Grassholme Reservoir, close to the picturesque towns of Mickleton and Middleton-in-Teesdale, giving visitors a chance to enjoy the wonders of the universe at sessions led by top astronomers.
Grassholme Observatory has been developed within an existing, underutilised building that has been refurbished on the reservoir site, alongside a brand new purpose-built neighbouring facility.
Northumbrian Water is working with one of the North East’s best known astronomers, Gary Fildes, founder and ex-CEO of Kielder Observatory in Northumberland, to run the new facility, bringing enthusiasm, knowledge and expertise to give visitors an outstanding experience. Gary is one of the UK’s best known outreach astronomers and an international speaker and author.
The first public events are scheduled to take place on Friday 21 August.
David Hall, Northumbrian Water’s Head of Leisure and Transformation, said: “We know that visitors to Teesdale already get to witness some of the most beautiful landscapes that Earth has to offer. Now, Grassholme Observatory means they also get to see stunning images from across the universe, and enjoy learning about astronomy from a really knowledgeable team. This development is in line with our overall Leisure Strategy to attract more visitors to our sites and to showcase the great environment, countryside and dark skies we are proud to protect.
“Grassholme Observatory will open up the wonders of Teesdale’s Dark Skies and add another dimension to what this wonderful part of the world has to offer.
“While distancing does mean that visitor numbers will be reduced as public events start, we are sure that anyone who attends will find the experience fascinating and be excited to return.”
The long-term aim of the Observatory is to provide a long lasting and sustainable business which will contribute to education for local schools and provide jobs. An aspiration will be to preserve the local Dark Skies*, as was achieved in Northumberland in 2013. A similar approach here will have significant economic impact on the tourism sector in this region, especially in the colder winter months when visitor numbers typically decrease.
Gary, who has been awarded an honorary Master’s Degree from the University of Durham and a Fellowship from Sunderland University for his contributions to astronomy, said: “The skies here are as dark as I have seen in the UK. Coupled with the unique accessibility of the location, Grassholme Observatory is perfectly placed to be a one stop destination for all things astronomy.
“Add to that the wonderful facility and breath-taking natural surroundings, this observatory will firmly establish itself in the UK as a tourist destination for stargazers for years to come.
“The Comet NEOWISE, which was a recent landmark of the night skies up in Teesdale and beyond, has really whetted the appetite of the public, and our new public observatory will be able to meet the demand.”
The facility will open from Wednesdays through to Sundays, offering late night sessions on the weekends. Private and corporate events are also catered for.
A schedule of events, online booking, and further information are available at https://bookwhen.com/grassholmeobservatory.
*Depending on the phase of the moon, some dimmer stars may be less visible due to the moon light. During these times more weighting towards moon observations may occur.