Sunderland stargazers team up with the BBC for weekend of events

Tanni-Grey Thompson with Sunderland Astronomical Society members at the official opening of its new equipment.
Tanni-Grey Thompson with Sunderland Astronomical Society members at the official opening of its new equipment.
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A free event to spark interest in stargazing promises to be out of this world.

Sunderland Astronomical Society has teamed up with the annual BBC1 Stargazing Live series to host a weekend of events starting on Friday.

Held within the grounds of the Washington Wetland Centre on Friday and Saturday, the society will have more than 20 telescopes on hand to allow people of all ages to view the universe.

The Cygnus Observatory will also be open, as well as the recently commissioned All Access mount and telescope, which was officially opened by Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson in November.

The new equipment, the only one of its kind in the North East, allows members of the public who are in wheelchairs to be able to get to the eye piece of a telescope.

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

Paul Meade, vice-chairman of the Sunderland Astronomical Society, said: “Both events start at 7pm and are completely free. People can come down and listen to enthusiastic local astronomers give lectures on the night skies.

“They will also be able to see such things as the Orion Nebula, a huge region in space where stars are being born. As well as this, they will also be able to see what happens when a star ends its life in the form of a supernova.

“We will also be giving visitors the chance to take home a picture of the moon taken that night.

“On Saturday night they will have a chance to buy a piece of meteor from one of the vendors, as well as binoculars and also telescopes, if they really get the bug.”

Parking is limited due to the popularity of the event.

Visitors are advised to bring a warm coat, a hat and gloves. Staff of the WWT will be opening the café for teas and coffees.

For more details and directions, visit www.sunderlandastro.com, or visit the SAS Facebook or Twitter page by searching for Sundelrand Astro.