ST MARTIN'S OBSERVATORY COULD BE 'MAJOR ASSET'
The man behind the proposed St Martin's astronomical observatory has said it has the potential to be a "major educational asset".
Terry Perkins, who operated the St Martin’s Boat service for 48 years until his retirement in 2015, was recently granted planning permission to build an observatory on the vacant field at the rear of the island’s Community Centre.
The plan is to construct two prefabricated glass fibre observatory domes, each housing one telescope, as well as a “warm” room containing computers and equipment to “allow remote viewing through the telescopes via a camera link”.
Terry said of the venture: "This is very much a topical and growth area of scientific study, and we would like to capitalise on the dark sky status now given to the islands. With modern technology the ability to link to mainland universities and our own schools would provide a major educational asset."
The idea came from regular visitor Mark Holmes, who set up an observatory at High Legh in Cheshire. He stays with Valerie Thomas, who thought Scilly should capitalise on the island's Dark Sky status to attract tourists for out of season "Astro Holidays".
There is already a St Martin's Astronomical Society with 37 members who go out to the Community Hall with the equipment that some of the members already have from early evening until 11pm (weather permitting). Members - who pay £20 per year - post pictures to the group's Facebook page.
Terry, who was also a member of the St Martin's Auxiliary Coastguard for the duration of his boating career, added: "We applied for some funding, but unfortunately that didn’t materialise and we are still searching for possible funding.
"We have had some interesting public talks during the summer from Mark Holmes, John Ives who worked on the International Space Station project giving us an insight of zero gravity, and Mike Redfern, a retired Astrophysicist from Galway University.
"We very much appreciated their time and from the audience donations that were gratefully received, it enabled us to find the finance for the planning application."
This is NOT the planned design or site of the observatory.