Chris Welch – Professor in astronautics and spacecraft engineering – will be landing in Northumberland in October to officially launch the North Pennines Observatory.
Professor Chris Welch, who teaches at the International Space University in Strasbourg, will preside over the opening ceremony of the long-awaited observatory based at Allenheads Contemporary Arts (ACA), near Hexham. After the launch on October 6th Professor Welch, who is the Vice President of the British Interplanetary Society, will be giving a talk called ‘Space – What is it Good For?’ which looks at the benefits of space exploration.
Financed by the North Pennines AONB Partnership, as part of its Allen Valleys Landscape Partnership Scheme (AVLPS), with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the exciting new venture will be a gateway to understanding more about the night skies above one of the darkest places in England.
Sited at the rural art base, the observatory will be the focus for the AONB Partnership’s Dark Skies events programme, as well as a host of art projects and other astronomical activities.
Chris Woodley-Stewart, Director of the AONB Partnership, said: “In the last couple of years, 16 locations throughout the North Pennines have been officially designated as Dark Sky Discovery Sites. There’s a huge interest in astronomy and we’re very pleased to have been able to fund this observatory.”
Helen Ratcliffe from ACA, who is busy putting the final touches to a sound and visual installation with French artist Caroline Lé Mehauté, especially for the opening of the observatory, said: “The possibilities of what we can do with the observatory are endless. We’ve run innovative arts and educational projects for over 20 years and the new addition of the observatory will provide us with a great source of inspiration. And we’re thrilled to have Chris here to officially launch this new chapter in our story.”
The new building has been designed by three students from Newcastle University, Katie Fisher, Noor Jan-Mohamed and Becky Wise and overseen by xsite architecture, which is based in Newcastle.
After the official launch the AONB Partnership will hand the observatory over to Allen Valleys Enterprise Ltd (AVEL), a new community benefit company that has been established by the AONB Partnership to take forward some of the enterprises which are emerging from the Landscape Partnership.
Tickets for Prof Chris Welch’s talk are free but limited, and can be booked by on our events section.
Find out more about the Observatory here.
Photography by Gary Lintern.