Observatory near Ripon offers chance to see Milky Way


Jan 10, 2022
Lime Tree Observatory. Credit: Martin Whipp

People in the Harrogate district will be given the opportunity to see the solar system and Milky Way from an observatory near Ripon next month and in March.

Lime Tree Observatory at Lime Tree Farm, at Grewelthorpe, is offering a series of tours as part of Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty‘s Dark Skies Festival.

If the weather is clear, telescopes will be available to see the dark nights skies close up.

Nidderdale is home to some of the darkest skies in the country and has four dark sky discovery sites — Thruscross reservoir, Scar House reservoir, Fewston and Toft Gate — which are recognised as excellent and accessible places to stargaze.

Nidderdale AONB dark skies © Martin Whipp

Credit: Martin Whipp

Iain Mann, Nidderdale AONB manager, said:

“Our dark skies are part of what makes this landscape so special with the opportunity to see thousands of stars, and even at times, the Northern Lights.

“But this wondrous sight is under threat with increasing light pollution. It also threatens nocturnal wildlife, wastes energy and can even affect our own wellbeing.”

New planeterium coming

Lime Tree Observatory, which has a 24-inch reflecting telescope with a motor driven and a presentation room, is run by volunteers on a not-for-profit basis.

Nidderdale AONB recently awarded the observatory a Farming in Protected Landscapes grant to buy digital projection equipment for its new planetarium, which has been three years in the making.

Built in a converted old hay barn, the planetarium will be six and a half metres in diameter, and is set to open to the public this year.

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The three-year Defra-funded Farming in Protected Landscapes grant programme offers financial support for one-off projects that either support nature recovery, provide better access or engagement with the land, or increases the business resilience of ‘nature friendly’ farms.

Astronomer, filmmaker and volunteer at Lime Tree Observatory, Martin Whipp, said:

“When it opens, the new planetarium will have a real wow-factor. You’ll be able to fly through the Orion Nebula, or witness simulations of galaxies colliding in this immersive experience.”

“The observatory aims to truly engage and inspire the public. Here, children can hold a meteorite that’s four billion years old. It can really fire imaginations. Space offers an exciting platform to learn physics, to inspire art, poetry and philosophy.”

The Dark Skies Festival also offers a chance to canoe under the stars at How Stean Gorge in Lofthouse.

For details and to book for the Lime Tree Observatory, click here.

Tickets are limited and booking essential.

What is Nidderdale AONB?

Nidderdale AONB, which is funded by the government, is an area of 233 square miles located on the eastern flanks of the Yorkshire Pennines stretching from Great Whernside to the edge of the Vale of York.

AONBs are designated in recognition of their national importance and to ensure that their character and qualities are protected for all to enjoy.


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