Our 24 inch Newtonian Telescope is housed in the Dome which is accessed by a spiral staircase with multiple handrails for guidance.
There is not room for two abreast on this staircase enabling our visitors to make use of the wider area of each step. There are 12 steps up to the dome.
We do not have a lift for wheelchair users however we are looking at ways that we can relay via video the magic of the dome.
Lighting in the dome is minimal to aid night vision and will be a red colour originating from a strip of lights running all the way around the perimeter.
At the top of the stairs, our visitors are invited to queue in a somewhat confined and circular space around the telescope.
This space is approximately 6 metres in diameter but with the telescope taking up the middle 2 metres of the room.
There is a safety gate at the top of the staircase which is kept closed during demonstrations and viewing.
There are two safety ladders (depending on how high the telescope is pointing) with handrails on either side to assist the viewer in reaching the telescope eyepiece comfortably.
The smaller ladder has 5 wide and comfortable steps before the viewer arrives on the enclosed viewing platform via the 6th step.
The larger ladder is similarly constructed but has 9 wide and comfortable steps before the viewer arrives on the enclosed viewing platform via the 10th step.
It is possible to turn around on the platform at the top of these ladders for forward-facing descent.
Our telescope is driven to counteract the Earth’s rotation to keep objects in view.
While in the dome, you may experience the telescope moving (slewing) to track a particular planet or object and there is an auditory warning when this is about to take place.
You may experience the dome aperture rotating to view in another direction, again an auditory warning will be given when this is about to take place.
While this is a normal action to align the dome opening with the direction of the telescope, for some this may lead to a brief sense of visual or balance disturbance.
Please let us know if you or any of your party may be impacted by this movement.
As the dome is circular in shape this can create an unexpected auditory effect otherwise known as the whispering gallery effect, where the speaker’s voice may appear to be originating from another area of the dome, or moving around the dome.
For visitors who are blind or partially sighted there is the opportunity to experience the sizes and shapes of our different telescopes through a touch and feel experience and to hear space in our Radio Astronomy Department. The Radio Astronomy Centre is accessed by a short ramp.
There are no toilet facilities in the Dome.