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Stars come out for University of St Andrews' 600th anniversary

Friday 30 November 2012

James Gregory telescopeThe stars will come out this weekend to a special celebration, as the University of St Andrews observatory opens its doors, free of charge, from 6 – 9 pm on Saturday December 1, 2012; offering an intimate view of the night sky through the largest operational optical telescope in the UK.

Star-spotters are invited to this year’s Open Night at the Observatory to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the James Gregory telescope, the largest operating optical telescope in the UK, which will be available to view.

Visitors will be able to view objects up to 10,000 times further than can be seen with the unaided eye including (if the sky is clear) Uranus,  Jupiter's moons, and galaxies far, far away.

With the Moon rising around 6pm, it should be possible to look at the craters and mountains on the Moon later in the evening. The planet Saturn, with its dramatic ring system, will also be visible towards 9pm.

The open night forms part of the University’s 600th Anniversary celebrations, celebrating the University’s long history of questioning humanity’s place in the grand cosmic scheme of things. Most recently the University has discovered new planets, spotted the first star other than the Sun seen to flip its north and south magnetic poles, and found clues to climate change in the constellation of Pegasus.

Now the University is working to raise £4 million to fund the creation of an ‘Other Worlds’ Think Tank and Observatory. The new think tank and Observatory project will extend the University of St Andrews’ flagship work on extra-solar planets, and provide a creative environment for problem-focused research, education and continuing public engagement.

Saturday evening’s observatory is a chance to find out more about our extra-solar planet discoveries, watch computer simulations of stars forming and ask an astronomer about the cosmos.

The Observatory is located off the north side of Buchanan Gardens, St Andrews, just west of the mini- roundabout junction with Hepburn Gardens. Limited parking space is available. There is wheelchair access to the ground floor of the Gregory building, where most of the displays are mounted, but no wheelchair access to any of the telescope domes.

Attendees are advised to wrap up and hope for clear skies.