It’s been one of those monumental years for us here at Kielder Observatory. Nestled in the fantastic dark sky park, which we helped spearhead, we have seen truly amazing growth in visitor numbers over the past few years, but nothing quite like the last twelve months.
It’s no secret, with the facility open almost the entire year, seven days and nights a week, that we hoped for this level of success, but with visitor numbers now in the tens of thousands, travelling literally from all over the world to spend time under some of the darkest skies on the planet, we’re over the moon (pardon the pun) with the story so far.
Having taken on a new office in Newcastle to manage everything from infrastructure to events, and several new full time members of staff, as well as dozens of new volunteers, our visitors have been not only coming, but also returning in huge numbers, with events selling out still weeks or even months in advance.
One of our recent huge success stories was the partial solar eclipse, which we managed to cover not only from the observatory, but also on giant screens all across the UK, and on national TV, again, giving great exposure not only for us, but Kielder as a whole. Millions of people across the UK watching the Sun being partially covered by the Moon in one of nature’s finest spectacles really showcased what we are able to deliver in terms of STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics), something which the North East has a proud and long heritage in.
Our Director and founder Gary Fildes has been taking the Kielder message far and wide, with hugely successful talks around the UK and even taking a film crew to Pasadena, California to meet up with moon walkers and produce a phenomenal series of films, where he talks to almost every living person who’s walked on the surface of the Moon. This has been shown regularly at the observatory, aiming to inspire the next generation of scientists to, in the words of the last man on the Moon Commander Gene Cernan “never give up on your dreams”.
Our fundraising event late last year, at Newcastle United’s football stadium, where we invited Apollo 13 legendary controller Sy Liebergot, was co-hosted by non-other than Olympic superstar Steve Cram. We managed to raise tens of thousands for the observatory, enabling us to, in the words of NASA “Dare Mighty Things” and take the observatory to new heights.
So now, with support from a host of organisations within Kielder Water & Forest Park , we’re planning the next phase of the observatory. A multi-million pound project to add a state of the art planetarium, huge research grade telescopes, a huge collection of meteorites, better on site facilities for our visitors, and much more, whilst retaining the ethos of sustainability and being at one with the natural beauty which is Kielder. An ethos which again shows that STEM can be so much to so many people.
So our goal… to make the North East and Kielder a truly global force in outreach and education, to make it the UK’s greatest centre for STEM and astronomy, but beyond that, to take the message globally, and one day, to be the world’s No.1 public observatory…
Dare Mighty Things…we know we can.