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Yet another Dome for Greenwich
                              
  August 2004

Photo permission: Allies and Morrison

Yet Another Dome for Greenwich?

Sandra Lawrence observes a new local landmark

It looks like a cone with the top chopped off – and it could create a stir when it opens in 2006.

We’re getting a new building in my neck of the woods. Part of the mammoth “Time and Space” project, it’s the new state-of-the-art planetarium planned for the Royal Observatory. It will be the most advanced of its kind in Europe, enabling even more than the current 700,000 visitors a year to experience night skies as never before.  

 

We’re promised new galleries, educational units, access to remote telescopes and a horology centre to conserve Navy chronometers as part of the 15 million project, which will also provide public access to the latest images from space. Opening up and re-landscaping one-third of the site previously closed to visitors will mean, too, that a fine old Victorian building will have a new lease of life – with disabled access, a shop and cafe.

Creating an add-on to the Observatory’s existing – and very popular - historical and astronomical facilities must have been one heck of a headache. Greenwich is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and as such must retain its history and character.

Director of the National Maritime Museum, Roy Clare, is full of confidence. “It is an imaginative response to public demand,” he says. “The upgraded facilities will help us inform, educate and entertain our visitors.”

Photo permission: Hayes Davidson



The great and the good are equally excited. Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, John Brown, the ebullient Astronomer Royal for Scotland, scientific celebrities such as Professor Colin Pillinger and Professor Lisa Jardine, broadcasters Sir Patrick Moore and Peter Snow are adding their support.

11 million have already been raised from the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council and private donations. The board are confident that the remaining 4 million can be found for the project’s piece de resistance, the magnificent planetarium.

Launching an appeal to complete the project, Peter Snow described it as “one of the most adventurous undertakings in the 330 year history of the Observatory,” demonstrating in typical fashion how much has been raised so far on his “swing-o-meter” (the famous Time Ball raised to two-thirds up its pole.) It seems likely that his waving arms will soon be showing that same Time Ball at its 12.59pm position…


Photo copyright: National Maritime Museum




 

 


   

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