Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson was star attraction at Sunderland observatory

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson with members of the Sunderland Astronomical Society after she had officially opened the new all acccess telescope mount at the Observatory in Washington WWT last night (Friday)
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson with members of the Sunderland Astronomical Society after she had officially opened the new all acccess telescope mount at the Observatory in Washington WWT last night (Friday)
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Top athlete Tanni Grey-Thompson has praised a city group for giving even more people the chance to get starry-eyed.

Sunderland Astronomical Society’s observatory has become the first in the north to offer wheelchair-users the chance to examine the night sky using a specialist mount and telescope.

The society raised £1,500 to design and build the equipment after noticing that some visitors to its Cygnet Observatory at Washington Wetland Centre were having difficulties in using the regular telescope.

Paralympian Tanni officially opened the mount and was presented with a membership for the society.

She said: “It’s amazing to be here – I don’t think I’ve ever opened anything in the dark before!

“It’s a great place for people who want to get out and about. I used to love watching the stars with my grandad, and I know that my daughter would love to come and visit here too.”

Sunderland Astronomical Society’s vice-chairman Paul Meade said: “It was great to have Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson here to open our new mount and telescope.”

He added: “Because telescopes are predominantly on a tripod and mount, it can be hard for some people to get up without steps, which isn’t practical for wheelchair users.

“Wheelchair users come to our stargazing events and haven’t been able to use the telescope so we decided to design one ourselves. We believe it’s the first of its kind in the north.”

The group hosted a series of fundraising events to pay for the equipment, and was granted £500 from the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund to help towards costs.